Vaccines and the Christian Call to Love One Another

What is the Christian duty?

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m not even a Christian, who cares?” If you believe in acting morally and ethically toward others in society, you might also have an interest in this. I’m a Christian, so that’s where my ethics derive from, and what I write about today.

Christian duty is many things. When you boil it down, it is simply this: to love God and love others. There are a multitude of ways to do this, but one of the fundamental ways we achieve this is by putting others ahead of ourselves.

We live in a society where people vehemently demand their rights. But the call of Christ is that we recognize both our duty and privilege as Christians. We are sinners saved by undeserved grace, called to do what Jesus did; give up our rights in order to serve those around us.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
     he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:3-8

This isn’t a post that’s been fun for me to write. I have many friends who continue to say no to vaccination. I’ve said before I can respect their decisions, but the truth is, I don’t respect it. I can respect and love someone as a person while thinking they have made a poor decision.

I’m not really one to get on a soapbox on social media, but something in me was convicted the other day in the shower. Yes, you read that right. Every day, I feel anxiety and concern for those I know who are unvaccinated and the people they come into contact with. I was praying about it. Instead of giving me peace, the Lord said, “Well, what have you done about it?” I am afraid I haven’t been very courageous in sharing my beliefs with those around me, and would like to remedy that.

As the COVID-19 vaccine debate kicked off last year, I knew I’d get my shot as soon as it became available. I know several doctors and medical practitioners who told me they were comfortable with the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. And I did my own research, reading different studies and about the risks and benefits.

After reading an article from a friend who was enrolled in the Johnson & Johnson trial in Orlando, I spoke with another friend who signed up for the J & J trial in New York. Asking her questions about it prompted me to enroll in the AstraZeneca trial here in Nashville, an experience I’ve written about for the Williamson Herald.

I’m still a participant in the trial, and since being unblinded, I found I’ve been fully vaccinated since the beginning of the year.

I’m typically very healthy, experiencing between 1-3 days of sickness each year. Since last February, I haven’t had a cough, fever, sore throat, or any remote experience of sickness. If I were to get sick with COVID, I’m not particularly concerned about my suffering, or even potential death (a very unlikely occurrence, based on statistics) but that instead, I might pass it along to someone with a less robust immune system. I have several close friends with weakened immune systems and who have recently overcome cancer.

Because I am rarely sick, I never chose to get vaccinated against the flu. Ever since a doctor friend explained the immunization could save someone else’s life, I’ve gotten the flu shot every year. I view the COVID vaccine in the same way.

Choosing to receive the vaccine isn’t really about me, or you. It’s about protecting others who cannot protect themselves from a deadly virus. There is a category of people who cannot get vaccinated, whether due to young age or pre-existing health conditions. As a people who profess to care about the most vulnerable in society, we ought to consider their health when we make a decision to not get vaccinated, not wear a mask, and behave in ways that negatively affect the lives of others.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus answered a question posed to him by the disciples James and John, who wanted to know how they could be seated in positions of honor in heaven.

Jesus cautioned them, saying they didn’t know what kind of suffering they were asking for. The other disciples heard the conversation, and “were indignant.”

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45

I urge you to think deeply today: How have you answered the call to serve your neighbor during the pandemic? Have you spent time complaining about the interruption to your life, or the loss of your “rights”? Or have you sought to serve and put others ahead of yourself?

This post is not meant to be a tool of shame, but rather, self-examination. If you are feeling convicted, let me encourage you: it’s never too late to follow Jesus’ example and choose to serve others in the way we lead our lives.