The issue of vaccination has become increasingly contentious.
Some are urging others to go for it out of a sense of civic responsibility and others are calling for non-vaccination based on safety concerns or even deeply spiritual convictions.
This has resulted in divisive and sometimes heated arguments within families and friends.
There are Christians from different churches, including my own, who have asked me about my position on this issue. What guidance can we offer to help our people navigate through this issue?
Here are my thoughts:
1. DISCERN IF POLICIES ARE MEANT FOR WELL-BEING
As a general principle, believers should obey the government authorities when the government sets laws and policies that are meant to take care of the well-being of the people.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)
Even though some of these laws and policies may be disruptive to our lifestyle and, at times, even our livelihood, we must prayerfully discern if they are meant to take care of the people.
The exception to this will be when the laws are draconian, oppressive or against the Word of God.
Then like Peter in Acts 4:19, there is basis for us to obey God rather than man. But one must be absolutely clear that this is the case before presenting a case for non-compliance.
Having said that, when it comes to the vaccination issue for Christians, I believe that it would fall under one of those Romans 14 situations.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:1-8)
2. HOLD ON TO YOUR CONVICTION WITHOUT COMPLAINT
Due to the complexities involved in the vaccination issue, I believe it is a matter of conscience for the believer. So, each will have to make his or her own decision about whether to be vaccinated or not.
The important thing is this: Those who choose to be vaccinated must not despise or judge those who refuse and vice versa.
And once they make their decision, they must be prepared to bear the consequences and pay whatever price they need to hold on to their conviction.
So, if one chooses not to be vaccinated and has to be excluded from some venues or prohibited from certain events or be “discriminated against”, he/she must be prepared to accept these outcomes as part of the deal and not lament, complain or cry foul over this.
The important thing is this: Those who choose to be vaccinated, must not despise or judge those who refuse and vice versa.
This is already happening in some countries, where one is not allowed to travel without a full vaccination, or churches can host larger numbers if they are fully vaccinated but smaller numbers without vaccination.
Those who are not vaccinated may feel “discriminated against” or segregated. But if vaccination is freely available to all but one chooses not to take it, this will be the price that we pay to hold on to our conviction.
The same would be true for those who take the vaccination and find out that they do have side effects years down the road. One cannot come crying foul to the government since we made the choice to take the vaccination.
Having said that, is there room to speak up or protest against laws that are deemed unfair, draconian or taking away human rights or religious freedom?
Yes, but we must do it through the proper process of democracy. Write in, meet your Members of Parliament, organise non-violent protests, debate the issues and let your views be heard.
This is the legal right of every citizen in a democratic society. But let it be done in a way that does not provoke violence or lawlessness.
Take the example of Martin Luther King who stood on Matthew 5:9, and led his people into non-violent and peaceful protests, even though the authorities did not treat them fairly.
3. RESPECT ONE ANOTHER AND UPHOLD UNITY
Back to the vaccination issue, the truth of the matter is that we do not know enough, and even what we think we know needs to be verified if we are deriving our information primarily from the social media space.
It is best that we acknowledge that we do not know enough to be too definitive or be too dogmatic in our position.
We can, at best, be convinced to take a particular position at this point in time. As in all things of such nature, we can progressively learn new information and perhaps develop a case to change our stance.
If the time should come when there is basis to change our stance, may reason and common sense triumph over pride and ego.
Till then, let us prayerfully make our personal decision on whether to take the vaccination before God. Then let those who take the jab not judge those who don’t and vice versa.
But we respect one another’s decision and uphold the unity of the Body. These are higher values that we need to protect and to uphold. This can only happen when we have the grace to let others be in such matters of conscience.
Like the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:15-16: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
4. UNITE IN PRAYER
Let me finish with this final thought.
Whether we choose to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, our security rests not in this choice, but our ultimate trust is only in God and God alone.
Therefore, the one thing we must agree on, and one thing we must do together through this pandemic, is to PRAY.
Pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Pray that people will be saved, churches will be revived and nations will be transformed for His glory!
On this, I stand… for now at least.
This article was first published on Salt&Light.
- In conversations with others, have you sought to understand why they hold certain convictions about the vaccine?
- Regardless of what we believe in, how can we share our views in a way that respects one another and upholds unity?
- Other than the issue of vaccination, are there any other areas of contention among your friends or family members that you can apply these principles to?