This is an adapted version of a letter I wrote for the Village Church of Lincolnshire on behalf of our elders. 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.
As more and more of our friends, neighbors, and family members get vaccinated, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to offer some biblical counsel 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, it’s important we ground the following in Jesus’ two great commandments: love God, love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-40). As we approach the topic of vaccination, our thoughts, words, and decisions must ultimately stem from 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 & 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 you will 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 of 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. I cannot stress enough the importance of consulting your healthcare professional or local public health authority on this point.
- 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 I said all that I could say? Of course not. And, if it seems this advice is tilted in a particular direction, that’s because it is. In my 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 as a way of defeating this virus and protecting others.
Even as I say this, I recognize that ultimately this is an issue of Christian conscience. In our own church (Village Church of Lincolnshire), the elders have decided that we will not make vaccination a requirement for attendance. We will not be “carding” people at the door.
For now, we will continue to require masks in the worship service—whether our attenders have been vaccinated or not. We will continue to monitor community health metrics and roll back precautions as the situation warrants, looking forward to the day when the masks can finally come off and we can stand shoulder to shoulder, singing God’s praises in a full voice.
Until then, we must all continue to love another as best we can. This pandemic has tested our fellowship in many ways this past year, and the Lord has been faithful throughout. Trust that He will continue to bind His people together, whether we are in the same room or not.