When it comes to worldview thinking, especially when that thinking is being forced upon believers through coercion, threats, and the promise of free doughnuts, believers are right and wise to step back from the hysteria, submit their minds to Christ and think through the issue.
The current discussion about vaccines for COVID-19 is one such issue that has many Christians raising questions and genuine concerns.
Chief among those concerns is the use of human tissue harvested from the killing of unborn children in order to bring these vaccines to market. Whether used in vaccine development or testing, all of the major vaccines available at the time of writing (Astra Zenica, Pfizer and Moderna) fall into that category.
How can believers think through this reality, along with the cost of non-participation and the biblical commandment for a clean conscience? Here are some observations that I hope will be helpful to Christians.
Doing Evil that Good may Come
In Romans 3:8, Paul writes,
And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)
Paul seems to want to distance himself from this kind of ethical principle, and that seems like a very wise thing to do.
God alone has the infinite wisdom to manage a world of sin in a way that can bring good from our evil. We don’t have such infinite wisdom. As His creatures, not knowing the beginning from the end, God has commanded us to live according to the principles laid out in His word. We are not in a position to calculate how much evil we can get away with in the hope of some greater good.
The shedding of innocent blood is murder, and believers should not be thinking about how they might put bloodshed to good use by taking or creating a wonder drug to save their own lives.
God Honours Principled Actions
There is much good that comes from medicine. And much of that good can be readily seen. There is also much good that comes from principled actions. But that good is often hard for us to see.
Many believers throughout history were martyred for nothing more than living according to their conscience. It cost them their homes, their children and even their lives.
Many of those looking on, including many Christians, thought they were surrendering their freedoms for a trifle.
But the value of a pure testimony and a clear conscience before Jesus Christ meant more to them than their own lives (Acts 20:24, Revelation 12:11).
They considered the outcome of their way of life, as yet unseen, as more important than their immediate circumstance, as seen (Hebrews 13:7).
God honours principled actions, grounded in sincere biblical faith and a clean conscience, even when the world can’t see the point (Genesis 14:22-23).
Faithfulness Comes with a Cost
The bible tells us over and over again that faithfulness will be costly. There will be a heavy social and financial cost if you decline this vaccine.
Nevertheless, as believers, we are not in bondage to the world, its threats or its fears. The deepest contentment of our lives flows from abiding in Christ, not from our ability to secure our own safety.
And so, Jesus said,
…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
Your body matters; safety matters. But our temporal physical safety pales in comparison to the value God places on your soul.
In the last year we have seen many believers, including many ministers of the gospel, lock themselves behind closed doors while precious souls, young and old, have fallen away, died in despair, or gone astray. The cost of individual safety has been high.
But “save yourself”, has rarely been a laudable Christian ethic. More often than not, it has been a source of temptation. And so, even our Lord was tempted to act on self-preservation.
The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36-37)
For many Christians, it’s hard to imagine a kind of ‘love for neighbour’ that includes saving our own skin by leaning on the broken body of somebody else—save Christ—which is the whole point. Under whose blood are you willing to take refuge?
These are not easy questions. How many of our neighbours have to lose their homes, livelihoods or family savings for us to feel safe? How many people need to go hungry, or die deaths of despair in order to make us feel safe?
What is the number?
And when the next pandemic hits and science demands a fresh batch of your neighbours’ unborn children to find the cure, are we willing to put a number on the body count for the sake of our temporal safety?
Some will argue…
Some will argue that since the bodies were dismembered and the parts sold to the highest bidder so long ago that it’s no longer a moral or ethical problem. Sadly this argument has been used by people who should know better.
This is such a flawed argument it’s hard to know where to begin. First, when it comes to culpability, there is no statute of limitations in the courts of God. How long is long enough? By what standard? Does 6 months remove guilt? What about 30 years? Does participation in known and vital evil have an expiration date?
We ought not to live as though time had magical powers to erase sin (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:6). The only thing that erases sin is the blood of Christ shed abroad on repentant hearts.
Secondly, it’s not like we made a mistake and then stopped. That would be repentance. Instead, in addition to making full use of cells harvested from abortions in the 70’s and 80’s, we are adding new arms and legs to the Petrie dish in the name of medical research and pharmaceutical production today.
For many sincere Christians, this means that taking the jab would not only be participation in the sins of others but also a passive endorsement and justification for continuing those same abhorrent evils today.
Your Conscience Matters
Finally, scripture warns us not to deny our conscience (Romans 14:23). To violate your conscience as a matter of course is to establish the conditions for crippling guilt and an eventual denial of the faith.
The conscience is a delicate part of who we are and those who violate it—or cause others to violate it—are in danger of fierce judgement.
If your conscience tells you to take a step back, then be tender-hearted and do not violate your own conscience. Take a deep breath, count the cost and take time to search the motives of your own heart with an honest eye.
What if I acted in Ignorance?
Is it possible to take one of these government injectables without sin? I think so. I think that there are degrees of culpability here, just as there are with abortion.
A frightened and naive young woman who has been lead to believe that the life growing inside her is just a clump of cells and not a person is nowhere near as culpable as the doctor who knows full well he is destroying life.
Likewise, I can envisage a young man who knows nothing of the way these vaccines were brought to market taking it for the simple reason that he wants to care for his aging mother and getting this jab is the only way he can love her up-close and personal while she lies in a nursing home bed.
But if and when it pricks the conscience to discover that you have made use of technology that was brought to market via the flesh of unborn children, then it’s time to acknowledge that. Acknowledge the ignorance, perhaps even the willful ignorance.
Don’t claim innocence on the basis of your ignorance but bring an open heart before the Lord who forgives generously. Where there has been sin, ignorance, fear or selfishness, acknowledge that sin and repent. And then acknowledge that Christ bore your sins in His own perfect flesh on the cross, and so you bear it no more.