By Gustav Krös
Since last year, the debate has raged over the implementation of mandatory vaccinations (vaccine passports) for Covid-19. Globally, this process has been gaining momentum across all facets of society. In countries like Italy, and New Zealand (among others), you need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to gain access to restaurants. Government departments in many countries, and companies like Facebook, Boeing, Discovery Health (and innumerable others), have made vaccinations mandatory for all employees, and most countries (only about a dozen countries do not require vaccination for entry) have made vaccination mandatory for all travellers entering the country.
This led to the fiasco in January surrounding the top-ranked male tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open tennis tournament – as he was not allowed to remain in Australia without being vaccinated. Most recently (ongoing since late January), we have seen the truck driver protests in Ottawa, Canada, because they will no longer be allowed to cross the border between Canada and the USA unless they are vaccinated. The most far-reaching implementation of mandatory vaccination has been taken by Austria, the first country to require all its citizens (over the age of 12) to be vaccinated from 1 March this year.
IMPACT ON THE BODY OF CHRIST
Within the global Body of Christ, Covid-19 vaccines have been a hugely divisive topic ever since the first one was approved for use in December 2020. Christians have been divided between those who oppose vaccination – due to a variety of reasons – and those who do not oppose vaccination. Unfortunately, the concept of mandatory COVID vaccinations has added fuel to this long-running vaccination debate, and it continues to bring further division among Christians.
There are a host of opinions on this matter. Some Christians do not oppose vaccinations in general but are specifically opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines. The reasons for this vary but two of the most prominent include: the lack of time given to the study of long-term effects – preferring that more time and research be conducted to ascertain possible side-effects; and secondly, some Christians oppose how some of the vaccines were manufactured. This second reason relates to the fact that some vaccines were developed with the use of foetal cell lines originating from an aborted foetus in 1973 (for more information on this, please view our article, COVID-19 VACCINES: ‘Mark of the beast’ or God’s provision?)
There are also Christians who are not in favour of any type of vaccine. Their reasons also vary. While some are opposed, citing the added substances and preservatives as harmful, others believe it is sinful to have vaccines injected into your body, thinking that by doing so, it is implementing humanly constructed alterations to the body that God created for you. Another group of Christians believe that they should purely rely on God’s protection against any disease and should they become sick, trust Him fully for His healing.
However, there are Christians who are in favour of the Covid-19 vaccines, including being in favour of it being made mandatory. Since statistics have shown that the vaccines have a positive effect on protecting people against serious illness and death, they feel Christians have a responsibility to show their love and care for their neighbour by protecting people’s lives in this manner. If being vaccinated can help prevent you from infecting someone else, who might ultimately die, they would rather get vaccinated and try their best to protect others’ lives. For this reason, they believe mandatory vaccinations are necessary to protect as many people as possible from death. Christians within this group display similar faith as the above-mentioned group, believing that even if the vaccine does have side effects, God can protect them against these.
There are also Christians who are in favour of being vaccinated but are opposed to mandatory vaccinations. They believe that even though they are vaccinated, mandatory vaccination is too drastic. One of the reasons given is the belief that people must have the opportunity to wait and see whether there are unknown long-term side effects until they feel comfortable about getting vaccinated. A further objection is a conviction that the mortality rate related to Covid-19 is not high enough to justify mandatory vaccinations.
HOW TO MAINTAIN UNITY
All these opinions are formulated by Christians who simply place greater emphasis on different aspects of their Christian beliefs. No matter which category we fall in, we should all protect our hearts from judging others for not sharing our convictions regarding these vaccines. Various texts in the Bible tell us not to judge each other, and Romans 14:1-13 speaks in detail about this, with verse 13 stating: “Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Similarly, we are not to judge our brother and sister who does not share our perspective on vaccinations.
In John 17:20-23, Jesus reminds us of the importance of unity within the Body of Christ, so we should not allow the enemy to divide us so easily. As Christians, we should be able to discern between the aspects that affect one’s salvation and those that are merely a difference of opinion due to greater emphasis on different Biblical texts. Too much time has been wasted and too many souls lost because Christians spend their time debating differences in interpretation of scriptures. It is these debates and divisions that often cause non-believers to doubt the authenticity of our beliefs because all the different interpretations of the Christian faith are confusing to them. They ask how someone can claim to know the one true path to salvation but have so many different interpretations of other (less important) issues.
The vaccination debate has thus become the latest topic that the devil is using to further divide the Body of Christ. Christians should rather be open to acknowledging their brothers’ and sisters’ different opinions on the matter, while not allowing these differences to drive a wedge between them. The Church should remain focussed on its calling of reaching the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19-20). This is the mission given to the Body of Christ, and as we move closer to fulfilling it, the distractions will increase in number and intensity, because the devil does not want us to accomplish it as it will usher in the return of our Lord and Saviour (Matt 24:14).
All the above-mentioned points will not stop the global debate regarding mandatory vaccinations as more and more countries and businesses investigate its implementation. Should the notion to implement these steps grow – as the current trend suggests – the implications thereof will just become more severe for those Christians who do not want to get vaccinated. In the end, each of us needs to take responsibility for our own decisions. Those Christians who do get vaccinated will have to take responsibility for how they are going to respond should side-effects of the vaccination come to the forefront at a later stage. At the same time, those Christians who do not want to get vaccinated must make sure they maintain their Christian witness when the pressure becomes more intense as mandatory vaccinations are introduced. This will require that even amid this pressure these Christians must continue to display the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23). There would be no use in fighting mandatory vaccinations in a worldly manner and ultimately losing your Christian witness in the process.
So, no matter what your perspective is on vaccinations and whether vaccinations should be made mandatory or not, let us not harden our hearts to others’ opinions, but let us be open to listening to one another and, above all, allow God to transform our minds according to His will for our lives (Rom 12:2) and keep a clear conscience before Him.
- May we withstand this onslaught of the devil, and not allow him to bring division in the Body of Christ, even though we might have a difference of opinion.
- May we be open to listening to our brothers and sisters who have a different opinion on this matter and not judge them for it.
- May we not allow this matter to distract us from our mission of reaching the nations with the Gospel.
- May we take responsibility for the decisions we make on this matter and maintain our Christian witness in the process by continuing to display the fruits of the Spirit.
- May we be humble enough to allow the Lord to transform our minds on this topic should He wish to do so.