On Monday (April 26) I went to Ottawa City Hall and got vaccinated. Most of you reading this will just say, “That’s interesting.” Some of you will be very bothered that I am getting vaccinated. Others of you will be very bothered that some people are bothered!
In other words, some of you will say, “Of course you should get vaccinated, only fools are against vaccination.” Others of you will say, “Of course you should not get vaccinated, only fools are in favour of vaccination.” Interestingly enough, both groups of people are in your local church. I know that both groups are in the Church of the Messiah, the church I serve in. As a pastor then, here are four reflections on vaccines and COVID.
First, we need to be a church that is clear when the Bible is clear
There are several moral issues where, what most Canadians say is true and good, the Bible clearly says is false and bad. Even if it costs you, you need to humbly, winsomely, gently, and clearly commend what the Bible teaches. The Bible speaks very clearly on many other very important matters. You should pray that you have the humility and courage to stick with what the Bible says, even if it is personally inconvenient, or is offensive to Canadians.
Second, the Bible does not speak clearly about everything, so where the Bible is unclear or silent, you should be gentle
Here you need to exercise great care. The Bible can inform and point in certain directions, but every step beyond what the Bible is clear on means you need to practice more grace and gentleness with those whom disagree (James 3:17-18). Is the government following the best science? What are the best ways to handle the pandemic? Is the media stirring up hysteria? Are the vaccines safe and effective? Has the government made a good case to limit basic rights and freedoms at this time? Are Christians being discriminated against?
The Biblical text is not an editorial in your local paper.
I can tell you right now, the Bible does not speak directly about these matters. The Biblical text is not an editorial in your local paper. So, we need to be gentle with each other, often agreeing to disagree.
Third, for a Christian, the truth is your friend
Just because the Bible is silent on many matters does not mean everything outside of the bible is gray, uncertain, and relativistic. You can know historical and scientific truths. Not every economic theory is equally good. Some political systems have a track record of being unjust and impoverishing. Christians should always seek to know the truth. Truth should always be important to a Christian (John 14:6; Rom 12:1-2; Isa 8:11-15).
We need to be gentle with each other, often agreeing to disagree.
Christians should lead the way in wanting to go beneath the glib assurances of a consensus and ask the tough questions and do the hard thinking that leads to greater light and truth. We should support wise economic theories and political systems, always remembering that unlike the Bible, this wisdom will be surpassed over time.
Fourth, until truth is known, we should be curious, humble, gentle, and open to fruitful conversation
That is where we are with COVID-19. Here I will say that it does not seem as if the mainstream media and government agree with what I have written. They seem to think there is only one view at any one time and shame those who dissent. But this is where it is most important for Christians not to get sucked into the dominant narrative, or convenient counter-narratives, and lift them up as if THIS is the Christian position. We are not, and should not be, a church united on political and social issues.
Woe to the church where secular politics and culture trumps the Bible.
In my opening example about the fact that people in the same church will disagree about the COVID vaccines and government policy. This is NOT a weakness in the local church. It is a strength, a “design feature” almost of God’s intent for the local, city-wide, and nationwide church. It is only a weakness if your church has been taken over by secular political and cultural narratives. But then you have a far deeper and more serious problem.
Woe to the church where secular politics and culture trumps the Bible. Where the Bible is silent, and where the truth of something has not been clearly established, we can differ. Hopefully, we can be a place where real conversations and real curiosity can flourish without defensiveness or shaming.
I have chosen to get vaccinated. I will not tell you my views on matters that are contested outside of the dominant media and government narratives. I am not telling you to get vaccinated or not. We can differ.
For me, I got vaccinated as an act of submission to the government, and to help in restoring civil society and the prospering of the community. May the Lord have mercy on your city and our nation. May He have mercy on our local churches, that by His grace and for His glory, they will be a center of light and life to your city.