What Do We Make of the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Disclaimer: None of what you’re about to read is intended as medical advice. Before embarking upon any course of treatment, please consult your healthcare provider.
Brothers and sisters,
As more and more of our friends, neighbors, and family members get vaccinated, it occurred to me that it’d be helpful to offer some biblical guidance on the topic. As Christians, we must take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5) as we consult both God’s Word and His world (i.e., scientific research) to discern whether the COVID-19 vaccine(s) are helpful and wise. To that end, I want to offer a set of biblical touchpoints to consider as you think about this issue.
Before I do that, though, I want to preface this with a refrain you’ve often heard from me and the elders this past year. In all we’ve said and done, love for God, you, and our neighbors has been our modus operandi. As we approach the topic of vaccination, that remains the case. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or not, we pray that whatever you choose to do, you would make your decision in a spirit of love and not fear (1 Cor 16:14; 1 John 4:18).
One more thing: we’re not doing a deep dive on the particulars of any one vaccine here. Nor can we flesh out every ethical or medical question involved. For a helpful overview of these things, you can read this FAQ from the Gospel Coalition. For a longer and more thorough treatment, check out this article from Trinity’s Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. I also commend a recent Focus on the Family interview with two infectious disease specialists.
All those preliminaries aside, here are four biblical touchpoints to consider as you think about whether or not you’ll choose to receive this vaccine:
- Life is a gift worth protecting. God created us in His image (Gen 1:26-28). Life is a gift to be cherished and protected from the womb to the tomb (Ex 21:22-25; Ps 139:13; etc.). The unlawful taking of human life is strictly prohibited (Gen 9:6; Ex 20:13). In the Old Testament, even the accidental causing a death (i.e., involuntary manslaughter) is liable to harsh punishment (Deut 19:4-10). For these reasons, Christians are called to do their best to protect themselves and their neighbors from harm (be it from violence, disease, or some other cause). If a vaccine allows us to protect ourselves and others safely and without moving us to violate Christian conscience (formed by the Word and Spirit), then we should welcome it as a good gift.
- God created us to subdue the world. The King of Heaven and Earth made His images to fill the world and subdue it as little “kings” under His direction (Gen 1:26-28). We recognize that not every advance in medical technology is God-honoring (e.g., gender reassignment surgery). Still, one of the ways in which we subdue the earth is by developing technologies, treatments, and therapeutics that alleviate suffering and promote human health. In this, we follow the pattern of healing mercy exemplified by our Lord—the quintessential image of God. Assuming they’ve been developed in an ethical manner, vaccines are surely one of the ways in which human beings have, by God’s grace, fought back the ravages of the Fall and continued on in our original mandate to subdue the earth. Receiving an ethical vaccine is not playing God; it’s playing the image of God—precisely what we’ve all been created and called to do.
- Christians are called to be people of truth. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified in the truth of God’s Word. He sanctified Himself so that God might send His truth-soaked people into the world the same way He sent the Truth Himself into the world (John 17:17-19). As people of truth, we do not merely seek to know the Word rightly but to know the world that was created by way of that Word. In this instance, that means engaging well with the best information available on vaccine development and safety. It also means critically evaluating objections leveled against the vaccines, especially when the institutions we’ve entrusted to protect the common good have so strongly endorsed them. We can’t stress enough the importance of consulting your healthcare professional or local public health authority on this point. We’re also happy to think with you about these things and point you to additional resources as needed.
- We belong to one another. One of the common refrains we hear from advocates of sexual liberation and abortion is that “it’s my body; what I do with it is nobody else’s concern.” We reject those arguments; sins against our bodies (or the bodies we may carry within us) and the body (i.e., the church) go hand-in-hand (1 Cor 6:18-20). Whatever freedoms we enjoy in Christ are meant to be constrained by love for Him and our neighbor within the church and without (Gal 5:13-15). If recent studies are correct in showing that vaccines both protect the vaccinated from serious illness and prevent them from spreading the virus, then Christians will need to think carefully about whether their freedom to say ‘no thanks’ trumps their calling to love their neighbor.
Have we said all that we could say? Of course not. And, if it seems this advice is tilted in a particular direction, that’s because it is. In our judgment, the most loving thing for Christians to do (notwithstanding allergies or other medical barriers) is to receive this vaccine not merely as a mechanism for self-protection but a way of defeating this virus and protecting others.
Even so, we say this not as a command, knowing that some will disagree. If that’s you, then please know that we have no intention of making this a requirement for attendance at VCL.
Nobody in leadership here will ever ask to see your vaccination card.
For now, we will still require masks in the worship service—whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. We will continue to monitor community health metrics and roll back precautions as the situation warrants. Recent trends suggest that the day is coming—sooner than many of us anticipated if the numbers hold—when we can dial down the distance and dial up our voices.
Until then, we will continue to love one another as best as we know how. This pandemic has tested our fellowship in many ways this past year, and the Lord has been faithful throughout. We trust He will continue to bind us together, whether we’re in the same room or not.
Your Brother in Christ,
Pastor Kenny (on behalf of the elders)