A couple of days ago, David French published an article saying Christians do not have a righteous basis for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The remaining vaccine holdouts are growing more extreme, and significant parts of the Christian Right are enabling, excusing, and validating Evangelical behavior that is gravely wrong and dangerous to the lives and health of their fellow citizens…
…as the Apostle Paul told Timothy, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.’ The power is not political power, but the power of God over the fears of man. The love is for God and for our neighbor. And sound judgment should help us separate lies from truth and tell us that no argument for liberty should trump our responsibility to spare our nation and our neighbors and finally take the vaccine.”
In other words, according to David French: if you love God and your neighbour, get the vaccine.
French isn’t the only prominent evangelical making that argument. The argument has become so common and so convincing to many evangelicals, America’s vice-president, Kamala Harris recently made the same argument.
That alone should alert every Christian about the manipulative and the unbiblical nature of that argument. If people like Kamala Harris agree with you on what Jesus means when he says we should love our neighbours, that should concern you.
You do not have a Christian duty to get the vaccine. You absolutely have a righteous basis for refusing to get the vaccine. It’s shocking this needs to be said: but you do not need to get the vaccine as a sign of your love for God and neighbour. Anyone who says otherwise is attempting to make their words more authoritative than God’s word.
The Bible says:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ…Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Colossians 2: 8, 16)
No one should pass judgement on you on the vaccine either. You have a righteous basis for getting the vaccine—and you have a righteous basis for not getting the vaccine.
Any preacher or politician, any supposed conservative or leftist who tells you otherwise is attempting to take you captive according to human tradition, not according to Christ.
Anyone who tells you it’s sinful to not get the vaccine—or anyone who tells you it’s sinful to get the vaccine, is attempting to make you captive to their preferences, not Jesus’ commandments.
Evangelicals like David French do not get to decide how you should love your neighbour on the vaccine, Jesus does. Evangelicals like me do not get to decide how you should love your neighbour on the vaccine either, Jesus does.
Jesus has given you liberty to choose what foods, drinks—or vaccines you put into your body. If you’re a Christian, Jesus is the high priest of your body—not evangelicals like David French. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God decides how you should love him and your neighbour with your body—nobody else.
Some people get the vaccine because they love God and love their neighbour. Others, however, get the vaccine because they hate God and hate their neighbour.
In the same way, some people refuse to get the vaccine because they love God and love their neighbour. Others, however, refuse to get the vaccine because they hate God and hate their neighbour.
Two groups of people can make the same choices for different reasons. And two groups of people can make different choices for the same reasons.
Getting the vaccine or refusing to get the vaccine isn’t inherently righteous or sinful. Our motivations for getting or refusing the vaccine is what determines the sinfulness or righteousness of our actions.
After all, some Christians get the vaccine because they are fearful and anxious—not because they’re loving God or their neighbour. Some Christians get the vaccine because they’re trusting in the vaccine for hope and security, not Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, I know of a pastor who got the vaccine strictly because it’s the only way for him to visit his sick and dying church-members at a hospital.
And I know of pastors who refuse to get the vaccine because they want to be an encouraging example to church-members who are tempted to violate their conscience and conform to coercion and pressure to get the vaccine.
These pastors are making different choices on the vaccine for the same reason: they love God and love their neighbours.
Many of us, however, do not understand—or want to understand—what it means to love God and our neighbours. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
In other words, we love God by obeying the Bible. This is why Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And as Jesus said, the second commandment is like the first: we love our neighbours by obeying the Bible.
But there’s a crucial part of what it means to love your neighbour that many manipulative people conveniently neglect to add when they reference that Bible verse. You see, Jesus didn’t say we should love our neighbours. No, he said, we should “love our neighbours as ourselves.”
This means remembering what Jesus says in Matthew 5:17: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”
So what is the right way to understand what it means to love God and love your neighbour as yourself on the vaccine? It means obeying what the Bible says or doesn’t say on the vaccines—and it means if you’re vaccinated, do not condemn or marginalize unvaccinated people the same way you wouldn’t want unvaccinated people to condemn or marginalize you.
In the same way, if you’re unvaccinated, do not condemn or marginalize vaccinated people the way vaccinated people condemn or marginalize you.
The Bible doesn’t tell you what foods, drinks, or vaccines to put into your body. God has graciously given you the liberty to eat meat or not to eat meat, he’s given you the liberty to drink alcohol or not to drink alcohol, and he’s given you the liberty to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine.
The Bible is clear on this—especially the entire chapter of Romans 14.
Romans 14:5 says: “one person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
For some of us, not getting the vaccine is better than getting the vaccine. For others, getting the vaccine is better than not getting the vaccine. And that’s okay. God doesn’t instruct us to accuse each other of sin when we disagree on this. Instead, God forbids us from quarrelling over our preferences (Romans 14:1). Instead, he commands us to encourage each other to be fully convinced in our own minds.
That’s what it means to love your neighbour as yourself. It means we want our neighbours to obey the Bible—and we want them to obey their conscience. It’s hateful, not loving, to pressure people to obey your preferences instead of their own conscience.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
It’s not loving to insist on your own way concerning the vaccines. It’s not loving to insist that getting vaccinated is a sign of our love for God and our neighbour. People like David French who claim we should get the vaccine if we love God and our neighbours are actually hating God and hating their neighbours when they twist scripture to suit their preferences.
They are disobeying the Bible. They are insisting on their own way. They are not encouraging people to obey God with all their heart, soul, and mind.
Instead, they are deceiving people into obeying their preferences with all their heart, soul, and mind. It’s hateful, not loving, to tell people they need to get the vaccine if they love God and love their neighbour.
If you’re fully convinced getting the vaccine is the best way for you to love God and your neighbour, get the vaccine. But if you’re like me, and you believe not getting the vaccine is the best way for you to love God and your neighbour—don’t get the vaccine.