Wave of Indecision
As the COVID virus storms the world with variants and the march goes on to protect the population, so do the demands for vaccination. Mandates are increasing. Those in the church and those not in the church are caught up in the undulating wave of indecision regarding “the shot.” Indecision caused by guilt, fear, pressure from family and friends, mixed messages, and more. People take sides. Bombarded with endless ads on phones, computers, and televisions, making it challenging not to waver when you want to say “no.” Celebrities air impassioned sound bites, medical personnel hold fort for hospitals and staff that are overwhelmed. Face it, we all know someone who has died from COVID.
The Great Debate
For Christians, the great debate to be shot or not has been present since the 1700’s when the first inoculation was developed for Smallpox. Though far more dangerous in its embryonic stage than our modern vaccinations, the inoculation did save lives. It reduced the mortality rate from 15% of those not inoculated to 2% who were. Matters of conscious versus modern health practices became the topic of Pastors and medical professionals alike, and that debate remains front and center today. Cotton Mather, who began the experimentation of inoculation in 1721, was both hailed as a hero and a villain. His father published a pamphlet entitled “Several Reasons Proving that Inoculating or Transplanting the Smallpox is a Lawful Practice and that God has blessed it for the Saving of Many a Life.” He intended to promote the 6th Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Faith, Conscience & Medical Procedures
Smallpox surfaced several more times in the 1700s, and the Christian population was just as divided as it is today with decisions regarding faith, conscience, and medical procedures. A bold article by Dr. Andrew Wong takes Christians to the mat, “I have heard some Christians say that the pandemic is God’s will and that God will decide whether we live or die so that they will leave their fate in God’s hands. I, too, submit my life to God…but I would never have become a doctor if I thought that helping people prevent and recover from illness was contrary to the will of God.”
Liberty of Conscience
Franklin Graham has not hidden the fact that he has taken the COVID vaccination but also agrees it should be a personal choice. Therein lies the conflict of conscience. Christians believe that we should help our friends and neighbors, put others first and save lives. Our “don’t cross the line” becomes the Liberty of conscience and Freedom of Religion. “The Bible does not instruct us as to whether or not one should receive a vaccine, but it is clear when it comes to the doctrine of the liberty of conscience. In matters unspecified by God’s Word, the Christian is to consider the teachings of Scripture and remember that all things must proceed from faith and be done for the glory of God.[iv] 1 Corinthians
Let us not trample on the consciences of others. Let us not condemn others for their decisions of health, instead, let us have faith and walk in love for our fellow man and, at the same time, prayerfully consider what is best for our own personal health. If we are to be imitators of God like the book of Ephesians exhorts us we can, and walk-in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up, we will be a sweet-smelling fragrance for the world around us. However, this only works through personal SACRIFICE and not mandated virtue.