In recent weeks the delta variant of Covid-19 has run riot in NSW and the world, raising important questions around vaccination and how best to tackle this deadly virus.
Sadly a number of the deaths we are now seeing in NSW are from those who haven’t been vaccinated, for one reason or another, and debate has now surfaced in some Christian circles as to whether vaccination is the ‘Christian thing to do’ or whether a personal faith in God's protection and deliverance is enough.
Whilst this issue is certainly more prevalent in other countries i.e. the U.S. where earlier in 2021, 45% of white evangelical adults said they would not be vaccinated (amounting to more than 45 million Americans or 14% of the population) there has been a rise in vaccination hesitancy in Australia, Christians included.
How should Christians respond to this important issue?
The purpose of these thoughts is not to dictate what Christians “should” do but to offer a brief biblical perspective that may help and inform any personal decision people make.
Having said this, I (Andy) feel confident that Christians who weigh the decision to be vaccinated from a Christ-driven position will be moved to say yes.
Why the hesitancy?
The reasons given for vaccine hesitancy are varied.
For some it’s a question of safety, what vaccination I’m offered will be a factor in my decision. The reality is, no vaccine is 100% risk-free, likewise no medical procedure is 100% without risk. Opting out of vaccination also carries risks; too ourselves and to others around us. So it’s important any decision we make is based on an accurate understanding of the risks involved ‘for’ and ‘against’.
For others the question of ethics is important; How is the vaccine made? What is the vaccine made from? These are legitimate questions worth investigating and better informing ourselves of.
Sadly conspiracy theories have led to vaccine hesitancy. The ‘mark of the beast’ is one fear that has been spoken of recently. This ‘mark’ is mentioned in Revelation and serves as a warning to Christians not to align with groups in the world that are hostile to God. But to believe this refers to any or all advice our government provides is not in keeping with the teaching of Scripture. The Bible affirms the role of governance exercising care for society. So health advice for the good of all should not be seen as ‘hostile’ to God. On the contrary, we should give thanks for the provision of health care.
Another reason for hesitancy is; “The blood of Jesus is my vaccine”, which is what one protestor’s sign said during the . There are some in Christian circles who believe; the virus presents no real threat to Christians, because the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to save us from disease. But this thought finds little support in the Bible. Yes, Jesus’ blood is powerful, but not for curing physical diseases, what scripture affirms is its power to treat our spiritual condition, the root of all human problems: SIN.
A final hesitancy worth noting is the claim of autonomy; that it is ‘my body, my rights’. Freedom of conscience is a very important societal good, it should be upheld. However when it comes to the rights of individuals, Christians have the freedom to act selflessly; to mirror what Christ would do.
A Christ-driven Position
When it comes to the question of vaccination, overcoming hesitancy or reluctance, the most convincing reason for vaccination is what Jesus described as the second great commandment; after loving the Lord your God – love your neighbour as yourself! As followers of Jesus we are called to sacrifice in his name as Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
In Philippians 2:5-7, God also commands, “In your relationships with another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” by “taking the very nature of a servant” and “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul also called on us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
We need to make wise decisions for ourselves, recognizing that our “bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). But we also need to recognize that we were created to be in community with others, loving and serving them as Christ would.
As followers of Jesus we can be instruments of God’s mercy, just like the doctors, frontline workers, researchers and pharmaceutical professionals who created the vaccine, administered and delivered it to us. Jesus himself identified as the great Physician when he was criticized for associating with the marginalized, tax collectors and social outcasts of his day. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” Jesus said. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught how we should treat our neighbours when it was the Samaritan who cared for the stranger in need.
In the Old Testament the prophet Ezekiel said; “this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.”
The goal of life for Christians is not just good health but an eternity with God. When the young man asked Jesus, what he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus directed him to the Law I began this position with: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.”
Our actions in life must always be driven by our love of God and our love for others.