(Note. This post is about vaccination but please allow me a few paragraphs to express my amazement!)
It’s like experiencing déjà vu. Of late, there have been several occasions when I’ve felt like someone had read the files on my computer. Either just before or just after one of my Sunday sermons from the epistle to the Romans, some friend of mine, somewhere in the world, would post an article or share some insights on the same topic. For those who don’t know, at OasisCF, we favour expository preaching and I preach through books of the Bible. This is why I am amazed – I am just going sequentially through a book and the Spirit seems to take a portion and add it to a resonant call to the body of Christ. As one dear brother would rightly say, it’s alignment since the Holy Spirit unites those who follow Christ.
Just yesterday, Bro Henson Lim posted a blog article about how Christians view (or don’t view) vaccinations. (https://brohenson.wordpress.com/2021/06/08/faith-and-vaccination/).
This is a very current topic in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it’s being dealt with. It just so happened that I was using the vaccination phenomenon to illustrate my point from Romans 14 & 15.
Romans 14 and 15 address one aspect of living life as a recipient of the gospel and a citizen of God’s kingdom. In chapter 14, Paul talks about how there are “strong” and “weak” believers in the Roman church. Their strength or weakness is demonstrated in how they express their faith. Some abstained from eating meat because they thought it pleasing to God. Others ate everything because of the freedom they had in Christ. Similarly, some worshipped on a particular day and others on some other day.
In chapter 15, we get an indication that the differentiation between “strong” and “weak” may have been broadly based on whether the believer was Jewish or Gentile. Suffice it to say that both ethnic groups would have their share of “strong” and “weak” believers because the basis of comparison was not ethnicity but the correct understanding and application of freedom in Christ!
And so, to summarise these chapters:
- The “strong” Christian is free to abstain from certain foods (v1-4) to avoid stumbling a “weak” brother or sister.
- Both “strong” and “weak” are free to honour God (v5-12). As long as honouring God was the aim, some latitude ought to be given in terms of expressions of faith. (Note. This does not refer to illegal, immoral or anti-Christian activities.)
- Both “strong” and “weak” are free not to judge (v13-23) because we are all servants of the same Master and it is His prerogative to judge, not ours.
- The “strong” ought to bear up the “weak” because this is what Christ did for us! (Romans 15:1-7). Christ endured much suffering for our sakes.
- The “strong” ought to bear up the “weak” because this is what Christ wants for us! (15:8-13). He wants unity amongst His people.
Now that we have the theological framework in place, we can look at different things that believers have differing beliefs on. Vaccination is one of those things.
While it is still voluntary, Christians fall into several camps when it comes to getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and, perhaps, other diseases too.
- Some believe it is wrong because it shows a lack of faith in God’s protection.
- Some believe the Covid-19 vaccine is “too new to be safe” and thus one shouldn’t take it. There will be some who will still not want to take it even if it were proven safe.
- Others believe that God’s protection may come in the form of a vaccine.
- And there is one group (perhaps this applies more in Singapore) that will get vaccinated just because the government says so. (By the same token, there will be a similar group who will NOT get vaccinated simply because the government says so.)
Imagine if you had all these groups in your church! If you attend a large enough church, guess what? You probably do! I have Christian friends who subscribe to just about all these camps. However, I am determined not to let vaccination get in the way of continued friendship! So then, how can I do that? What then should our response be, as Christians? Allowing Romans 14-15 to be our guide, here is how we can respond.
- Since it is neither illegal nor immoral and not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, each individual may have his or her own convictions on the issue.
- Remember that there is a difference between your convictions and what the Bible says. There are many things that the Bible does not address directly. It is good to have convictions on such issues and even better if you arrive at those convictions through prayer and meditating on the Scriptures.
- Your convictions are your own. You can share them with others but ought not force them on anyone.
- Your convictions are not cast in stone, and they can change over time. I hope you realize this! Again, let any changing of convictions be led by the Spirit and Word of the King.
- If you meet someone whose convictions are different, celebrate them! Rejoice that they are your brothers or sisters in God’s family. Encourage them to continue honouring the Lord.
- Never let such issues divide Christians. To some degree, such issues are subjective. But, in all things, submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading as to how to handle such divisions. Exercise spiritual discernment when taking in information and don’t disseminate what you are not sure of. Where truth abound, fake news abounds even more. Often, sensationalism is the enemy of good sense. Perhaps you can get together (digitally, if necessary) with a few trusted friends to pray and intercede, keeping each other accountable in the process. Pray for our leaders in government too. They are trying to make the best decisions in the middle of a bad situation. Pray that they will be wise especially in discerning risk.
- Always remember that Christ has accepted those with different convictions into His kingdom, so we ought not reject them because they practice different! However, we still need to accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ because HE has accepted them already!
- The Lord has given us (individuals and churches) assignments in His kingdom. Let us busy ourselves with fulfilling those. The Believer’s Bible Commentary has this to say regarding Romans 15:13 – “And it is true that those who abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit have no time to quarrel over nonessentials.”
It is imperative that, as Christ’s ambassadors, we do not fall to bits out of fear. Full disclosure, I’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. I did not do so because I am afraid of the virus. My faith is in the Lord to protect me and to heal me. I am persuaded that He is almighty enough to do both! I am vaccinated so that I will be able to get on with my assignments with less hassle! I am determined not to let Covid-19 distract me from my assignments inasmuch as it might have disrupted some of my plans. I trust that what I’ve written here will help you do the same..