Note: The posts on this website are my personal thoughts and conclusions based upon Scripture. They are not endorsed by any church I have attended, pastored, or served in. This is an especially important distinction to keep in mind when reading thoughts on hot-button topics, such as the one discussed in this post.
Christianity and the COVID-19 vaccine. Chances are I already have your attention. These two worlds bounce off each other, all around us, every day.
To say they collide is to imply it is a war. To say they are partners together is to suggest an ease in fitting together. To quote a science fiction starship captain, “It’s never easy.”
In the North American, capital “C” Church at large, there are believers who take a strong position for both sides of vaccines. Local churches are often more split than they realize, until a side conversation becomes a lengthy, passionate discussion.
But what is the right side? Is there a right side? What lessons are we supposed to be learning and putting into practice as we go through this season? This is my take on a Christian’s perspective regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Instead of my usual style of writing, I have taken the approach of answering common questions I have heard when it comes to COVID-19, vaccinations, and church. I am not a doctor, so I have elected to forgo medical questions. Hopefully this will help.
[Q:] What about you? Are you vaccinated?
Let me begin by stating my own vaccination status is inconsequential. Readers will either applaud me or condemn me, whichever side they fall on. This is not a quick draw, put a stamp on either decision, type of post. I am not here to defend nor persuade. This about putting out some thoughts to help other followers of Jesus.
[Q:] Is this the “mark of the beast”?
Those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s heard a lot about the end times and the mark of the beast. It is not a surprise this question comes up for so many.
I can say with confidence that I do not believe the vaccine or the vaccine “passport” is the mark of the beast. Scripture clearly points to the appearance of the mark at a time when Anti-Christ has risen to power and the nations of the earth have submitted to his rule. While many believe we are ever closer to this rise, it is clear we do not have one-world government with one person calling the shots.
I would add, though, what is unfolding is certainly a precursor and groundwork for what will come. Many previously considered it impossible to have one identifier whose basis would cause such division or the lack of it would limit the access and freedoms of citizens in our democratic and enlightened world.
Of course, the setup for the end times has ever been in motion. John wrote, “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:3 CSB).
Credit cards, driver’s licenses, and passports used to be the identifiers we feared, with barcodes and pictures on them. But how many of us have a Costco membership to go along with these? The “wallet” apps on our smartphones all use barcodes and QR codes, as do smart watches. The vaccine passport is not the first sign of how close we are getting to the mark of the beast, and it won’t be the last. But I would not classify it as what we are expecting.
[Q:] Don’t I have a right to choose?
So, there are two parts of this. First of all, we all have the ability to choose. You can choose one path, and I can choose the opposite path. If we are both believers, who do we reconcile this?
Paul told the Christians in Rome to stop judging each other and let each believer make up their own mind. While I would not apply the terms “weaker brother” or “whose faith is weak”, the principal applies to those who choose differently based on their own convictions.
Here are some key verses from the chapter:
You cannot judge another person’s servant. The master decides if the servant is doing well or not. And the Lord’s servant will do well because the Lord helps him do well. (Romans 14:4 NCV)
On questions of this kind everyone must decide for himself. (Romans 14:5b TLB)
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13 ESV)
Second, we need to talk about what “rights” are. Some rights are universal, others are assumed, and some we just want to have. I will take a quick run at this in the next answer.
[Q:] So, I can tell the government that I object on religious grounds?
The tricky part with religious exemptions of any sort is they have to be fairly universal and you have to apply it to every similar situation. A vast majority of persons who would confess themselves as followers of Jesus and believers in the Bible have taken the vaccine. Also, if you have ever received any kind of vaccination in the past without concern or regret, and you try to convince an official this one vaccine is different, you are going to be running into a brick wall.
Keep in mind that the government is not bound to heed the counsel of Scripture. The Bible says believers should be in the world but not of it. The government is almost as “of” the world as you can get, as it creates and sustains the rule of law. It can choose to follow or ignore the Word of God as it sees fit, and even change its mind in a democratic government where the representatives who make the decisions are continually coming and going.
What about my “right” to choose? The rights I have the privilege of enjoying are based upon the government whose rule I live under. I have lived in Canada for the past 16 years, but whereas my immigration status is only a Permanent Resident and not a Citizen, I do not have the right to vote. I live and work here, pay taxes here, and follow Canadian laws. But this right is not available to me.
The government disburses rights according to its rules and objectives. It has no interest in my personal beliefs on the matter, especially if they are contrary to its desired outcome. Does this make me less free? As a believer, my freedom is based upon what God gives me and not what the government gives or takes from me. This is an important lesson for North American believers to hold on to as the days of ridicule and persecution draw closer.
[Q:] How should churches respond when it comes to services?
This is where things start to get harder. My personal thoughts on this may not be what my own church does, as I’m only a volunteer leader and do not make any decisions. But I do know pastors are having a struggle with this.
Let’s refer back to Romans 14 on this: “Therefore let us … decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13 ESV). I would add, or in the way of a seeker.
In this time there is a great longing for hope. There are many who are looking to the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to “normal” for that hope. It will not deliver. Only Jesus can provide the hope people need.
I believe we should work on keeping the path to Jesus as open as possible, for as long as possible. In many jurisdictions this could mean wearing masks, social distancing, and subjecting everyone to restrictions so that some who might not otherwise be able to find Jesus can get to Him.
The practical side of this is a heart-check for Christians who are vaccinated. While it would be convenient to limit our services to those who are considered “fully vaccinated” by the government, it makes church exclusive to those who fit inside the rules instead of inclusive to anyone who simply wants to find Jesus. Consider this confession from Paul:
I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22 CSB)
What are masks and social distancing for most people except an inconvenience? If I am unwilling to bear these slight burdens for a few hours to help people find Jesus, what does that say of me?
This list of questions is not exhaustive by any means. Neither are all of the answers as in-depth as some might prefer to help them make settle on a decision they are comfortable with. To be honest, I may have a Part 2 as these thoughts continue to simmer.
I know this is a difficult time for many. Pray. Read Scripture. Set some time aside to just think.
Ask for input. Set ground rules when you talk with people. Proverbs talks about the benefit of “a multitude of counselors” or “many advisers” (Proverbs 15:22), but the Bible also shows how the wrong advisers can encourage to take a course that is not consistent with who God wants us to be.
And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. (James 1:5 PH)