Vaccinated: Love Your Neighbor or Liberty of Conscience?

I am not taking sides. I am not pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. I am simply issuing a call for us as gospel people in local churches to NOT let this issue divide us!!

As with just about everything else in our day, this has become a point of division throughout our culture. Our unity, however, as followers of Jesus Christ runs much deeper than a virus or a vaccine. Our unity is built upon the hope of eternal life secured by Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection for all who believe in Him.

Within individual congregations, some have taken the vaccine and are for it, and some have chosen not to and are not for it. However, what has divided those outside of the church should not divide us within it! 

Evangelicals who are for the vaccine have summoned Matt 22:39 (Love your neighbor) as their defense and plea for other evangelicals to follow. It stands to reason if the majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths are currently among those unvaccinated, then in order to keep your family safe and other families safe, one would receive the vaccine – Love your neighbor.

On the other side, though, some evangelicals remain hesitant about being vaccinated, not from lack of information or stubbornness but for other medical reasons. A few examples would be VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) is a public record held at the CDC but is under-reported, the question of long-term effects for a short-term produced vaccine, and the possible connection between major health issues that arise in close connection with vaccination is not receiving any attention. So hesitant evangelicals summon Romans 14:3 (Liberty of conscience) as their defense for choosing not to vaccinate.

How do we stay above the fray of division that is occurring without and within the church? First, we strive for unity in our church families. The gospel unites us; the enemy loves to divide us in order to discredit the power of the gospel. Paul writes in Ephesians 4 that we who have been called should walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE, EAGER TO MAINTAIN THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT in the bond of peace.” What a display of gospel unity, when issues that divide everyone else has no room to divide us!!

Second, let’s not pit one scriptural truth against another. Instead of Love your neighbor (Matt 22) OR Liberty of conscience (Rom 14), let’s hold to both of them as equally inspired and equally applicable. After all, if those who believe “love your neighbor” applies here would view it from their neighbor’s perspective, they might find loving your neighbor doesn’t include appealing for your neighbor to violate their conscience. The same is true for those who believe “liberty of conscience” applies here, for those who have received the vaccine have acted according to their conscience. It’s both/and, not either/or.

Let’s choose the gospel way. Let’s be patient with one another, love one another, discuss freely with one another, respectfully share our differing views with one another, and show the world that the gospel that unites us is far more powerful than any issue that has the potential to divide us!