COVID-19 vaccine

2 Questions to Keep the Vaccine Wars from Dividing Your Church

25 January 2022

4.9 MINS

The ethics of receiving a vaccine for coronavirus are hotly debated, but that does not mean we can allow these disagreements to fracture our church communities.

While the Omicron strain impacts our world, differing views of vaccines and vaccine mandates are impacting our churches.

Disagreement bubbles along beneath the surface, breaking out online and occasionally offline. Many vaccinated Christians shake their heads at the unvaxxed: ‘How can they be so misguided?’ While many unvaxxed Christians shake their heads at their churches: ‘How can you obey a government that is so draconian?’

Both vaxxed and unvaxxed have strong feelings.

At worst, it’s leading to the fracturing of Christian fellowship. I’ve recently heard of people leaving churches over this issue. But less dramatically, there’s a sense of suspicion toward those who think differently — even when they’re longstanding Christian brothers and sisters in Christ.

But should the ‘vaccine wars’ playing out across our culture break Christian fellowship? 

Or is there a better way for Christians and churches to handle such a contested issue: one that will maintain the Biblical command to meet together (Hebrews 10:28), not least as a witness to our fracturing world (John 13:35)?

I think there are two key questions we should ask with the Bible open, which will help us maintain fellowship.

And the reason we need to ask these questions is because of a common temptation we face:

The Temptation We Face: Making ‘Jagged’ Lines’ Straight’

Vaccinations and vaccine mandates are issues many Christians feel strongly about (either for or against). We may believe our point of view is right, and those who think differently are misguided or wrong.

And it’s OK to have strong opinions about such issues. 

But as I’ve written about elsewhere, we need to distinguish between issues the Bible speaks to directly (e.g., salvation, murder) versus issues the Bible doesn’t address directly (e.g., political issues such as vaccine passports and public health orders). Or, in other words, ‘straight line’ issues versus ‘jagged line’ issues.

As theologians Jonathan Leeman and Andrew Naselli point out:

Most political issues are not straight-line issues. Most are jagged-line issues. Think of everything from trade policy to healthcare reform to monetary policy to carbon dioxide emission caps. These are important, and Christians should bring biblical principles to bear when thinking about them.

But the path from biblical text to policy application is not simple. It is complex. For such issues, none of us should presume to possess “the” Christian position, as if we were apostles revealing true doctrine once and for all time.’

When we make ‘jagged line’ issues such as mask mandates into ‘straight line’ issues, we raise a barrier between ourselves and other Christians who think differently. Instead of seeing such ‘jagged line’ issues as ‘opinions’ over which Christians should be free to disagree (Romans 14, Romans 15:7), we judge others as unbiblical and unchristian (Romans 14:10).

As a result, we dishonour God and compromise our Gospel witness to a fracturing world.

But if we maintain genuine, loving fellowship despite our firmly held and opposing ‘jagged line’ views, we glorify God (Romans 15:7) with our Gospel unity (John 13:35).

So how do we maintain Gospel unity in the face of such disagreement? 

Here are two questions that will help:

1) Is it possible to have a different opinion on vaccines and vaccine mandates and still be godly?

Is it possible for those who think differently on vaccines to still be godly? Could they still be faithful to God’s Word, even though they have different ‘opinions’ (Romans 14:1) about these matters?

In my understanding, the critical issue of whether people are for or against vaccines and vaccine mandates is trust. Do you trust the government? Do you trust Big Pharma?

Now, is it possible for a Christian to be godly and trust the government and Big Pharma?

I think the answer is ‘yes’.

Conversely, could a Christian be Biblically faithful, yet be sceptical of government and Big Pharma when it comes to vaccines and vaccine mandates?

Again, I think human history and a robust doctrine of human sinfulness (not to mention human fallibility) would lead us to answer ‘yes’. (While the Bible commands submission to governments (Romans 13:1), it never commands us to trust everything governments do or say.)

Thus, it’s possible to come to different conclusions on vaccines and vaccine mandates and still be faithful and godly. 

Christians must therefore be free to disagree on this matter without being judged as ungodly or heretics. It’s a disputable matter, an opinion that Christians are free to hold (Romans 14:1). And so, passages such as Romans 14:4 should govern our relationships with Christians who disagree with us:

Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another?
It is before his own master that he stands or falls.
And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

2) Could my Church’s decision on COVID policy be made from good Christian conscience?

Most churches I know of have submitted to public health orders. They wear masks indoors. They have check-in procedures. And when directed, they’ve ceased meeting in person.

But for some Christians in the anti-vax camp, this is giving into government overreach. They might struggle with their church’s decision to the point of not wanting to gather with them anymore.

And so, this raises the second question: could your church leadership think differently to you about public health orders and still be Biblical?

It’s worth pointing out that church leaders must land somewhere regarding public health orders: even doing nothing is a response.

When it comes to Scripture, we’re commanded to submit to governments (Romans 13:1-6), although there are exceptions. But these exceptions, Biblically speaking, are serious. These include bans on preaching the Gospel (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29) or partaking in idolatry (Daniel 3:18).

(Thus, the question Christians and Churches should ask is not ‘why should we submit to the government?’, but rather, ‘why shouldn’t we submit to the government?’ Submission is the default in Scripture: if we choose not to, there needs to be a good reason why).

Now, does wearing masks at church, for example, fall into the same category of rules the Bible encourages us to disobey, such as bans on gospel preaching (Acts 5:29)? I fail to see how it does — the Gospel is not compromised through mask-wearing (although banning the unvaxxed from church might well fall into that category).

And so, if your church leadership is acting Biblically when it comes to relating to government — even though they might have a different opinion to you on of public health orders — Scripture would command us to submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:17), and keep gathering at church (Hebrews 10:28).

Caring for the Unvaxxed?

Another implication of Christian freedom is caring for those who think differently on ‘jagged line’ issues.

While it’s tempting for the vaxxed to write off the unvaxxed as ‘reaping what they sow’ when it comes to losing jobs because of vaccine mandates etc., the Bible doesn’t call us to make such judgements. Instead:

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up… Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 14: 2,7)

Gospel Unity to a Divided World

Like so many political issues, Christians are free to come to their own decisions on vaccines and vaccine mandates. But as we do so, we mustn’t compromise the Gospel through disunity that’s unbiblical.

Instead, we have an opportunity to be witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who can unite Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor… and those who think differently about politics.

Even the politics of vaccines.

___

Originally published at AkosBalogh.com. Image by Lakshmi Prasad at BigStock.

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5 Comments

  1. StephenLewin 25 January 2022 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Paul and Barnabas divided over difference of opinion and went separate ways because John Mark situation .We have in Australia s one churches David I g you can’t minister in any caps ity or even attend any meeting r home grouo if you are unvaxxef so segregation is another issue being faced and that is division caused on some cases by a stronger health measure than government and that is church o lokicy ovetreach

  2. David J 25 January 2022 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    All the writings of people too-ing & fro-ing on this topic whether you should or whether you shouldn’t has come down to this… the church in the main has despised the prophetic gift.
    There is a point where each of us must take the the Word of the Lord must be take literally otherwise we’re just kidding ourselves about who we really are
    If we as the true church searched out trusted Christian prophets we would not be in this mess trying to use only our cognitive brains. The prophetic gift has been pushed down for too long & you won’t see this happen more.
    The prophetic gift is 1 of the main 9 gifts in Corinthians so it is definitely for today
    The prophets become more needed when leaders go rogue & this is 1 of those times in history where it’s needed more than ever – & strong words against evil leaders are being spoken whether the church is hearing or not.

    2 Chronicles 20:20: “Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

    Wake up , listen, search out what the Lord is saying & you will save yourself & your house
    Father God is talking – are we listening

    Need a great place to start?
    Elijah Streams on Rumble, Youtube etc.

  3. Pearl Miller 25 January 2022 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    The argument is obsolete…now that we have the info and data of what is really in the vax and what their purpose REALLY is, there is no more going back to , you are pro, I am con, we are equally right…that day has past. Every booster you get is a dress rehearsal for the mark of the beast…what are you going to say…. some Christians believe it’s a good thing….some Christians are going to get it…I’d rather “remove my foot from evil”…

  4. Daryl 2 February 2022 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Ahh, so the government tells you to jump off a cliff because its best for your health, then we must do that as the bible says to obey the government. Just because someone is a church leader doesn’t mean that we must do everything they say. How can an unvaccinated Christian attend a church when the church leadership have said from the pulpit you must be vaccinated to show you are truly a Christian that loves their neighbour.

    How many of our churches are compromised? What were the conditions for accepting all the covid grants that were handed to the churches from the Government?

    Would church leaders speak up risking their tax free status as a registered charity?

    We are told the check in qr codes are for contract tracing. But contract tracing is not occurring. So what is this data being used for?

    Most church leadership and Christians bought the line that the unvaccinated were a threat to the vulnerable and “dirty” and would spread the disease. They segregated their churches. They shunned those who chose not to be vaccinated. The damage has already been done.

    Look at the studies showing the psychological damage in young children and development delays in speaking due to not being able to see peoples mouths move for over 2 years. Cloth masks are useless and do not stop transmission.

    Where are the scriptures about the body being a temple of the holy spirit and we should be careful what we eat and drink and put into it? The verse about false teachers and prophets and discerning their teaching and direction?

  5. Anja Simukka 23 February 2022 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    God has created us to love one-another regardless of our vaccination status. What has happened to our faces which are our vessels of carrying smiles to our friends and neighbours.
    Especially to children and older people, Neighbours and spouses.
    We are discouraged from hugging and handshaking and not just discouraged but forbidden. People are scared of catching the virus and with good reason when our health care givers are leaving in droves as they can not bear to see how cheap medicines, in early stages that help, are being prohibited. Big pharma having the monopolopy with untested dangerous, drugs, which do not protect but weaken the God given immune system each time they are given. When the best preventetive is fresth air and sunshine people are told to lock themselves into rooms and no visitors. Or treatment until you are really sick. Like a small sore which is allowed to fester withot treatment until gangrene sets in. Where is the compassion and love ?

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