“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” – John 6:66
From the beginning I have supported the vaccine. It was my and Meg’s 2020 halloween costume. Through individual conversations I have encouraged everyone to get the shot. Of course I believe the shot will help keep me healthy. But even more importantly, I am convinced it is a way to love and protect our neighbor. Now that the fourth covid wave is engulfing Missouri and, listening to rhetoric of the anti-vaccine crowd, I have grown troubled. Especially I wondered how a large portion of the church can reject the vaccine? As I prayed, I felt the need to be bolder. First signing onto a statement of MO Pastors that urged Christians to be vaccinated (which became national news). I followed that by writing on this blog about the need to vaccinate. Then this past Sunday I urged us to not only be vaccinated (most of Chandler already is), but also share our story (here is the video, starts at 13:17).
As I spoke, a visitor grabbed her son and walked out. Another visiting couple left during the following song.
Nearly eleven years of pastoring I have given messages that created stirs. Caused disagreement. Lots of office meetings and phone calls in days following. But only a few times has someone walked out mid message. Watching the mom walk out, pulling her small son… I feel the tension rise up. I wanted to cave — keep everyone at Chandler, but I needed to speak the truth… still, I understand why pastor’s avoid controversy. It is hard to watch real people walk away.
Sunday afternoon I felt discouraged. My personality wants to fix everything (my pride believes I can 😉 ). I worked outside praying and pondering. I watched the video — just to confirm I didn’t say anything crazy (I did cringe at how long I spoke, but not the actual words). I helped with the youth group. Then worked to set up the night’s outdoor movie.
I wasn’t interested in watching The Chosen, but it was on the calendar. Season two’s third episode plodded along with the disciples talking around the fire. They waited for Jesus who was healing the crowds. Soon the group was arguing and dividing – how could Matthew work for their enemy, the occupying Romans?! Then Jesus approached, his body bent and exhausted. Everyone was silent — even my own heart — I had not considered what healing must take out of Jesus.
The uproar around the vaccine has little to do with the shot. And much to do with politics. And the church — being too embroiled in politics — has made the shot an issue of faith. You have heard all the rhetoric. “Covid is a hoax.” “The shot is just a way for the government to control us.” “The vaccine will change your DNA!” “It injects microchips.” “My vaccine is Jesus’s blood.” And then there are all the counter arguments — from the science and medical community — that the vaccine is safe.
These arguments will continue to burn. But the question for the church, as I posed on Sunday, is not about safety or government conspiracies. Instead, where is Jesus? I already know the answer. I have prayed and I am without doubt that Jesus wants to get the vaccine. But the Chosen gave me a visual of how hard Jesus worked to love his neighbor.**
Let the Republicans do what they want… Let the Democrats do what they want… They will argue from now until the end. BUT church, we do not follow a political party. We follow Jesus.
Some will choose to stay with their political party… this is hard for me, I want to argue and convince everyone. But I need to lean into the appropriately versed John 6:66. I must go with Jesus and he is helping his neighbor. We know the vaccine does just that. So, unless your doctor advises against it for a health reason, get vaccinated. And let people know it was NOT politics. We were vaccinated because we follow Jesus. Because he lives to love the world, so do we!
** What is God’s vision for the church and the vaccine? God’s desire is that Christians will be quickly vaccinated. And then that we make every effort to send the vaccine overseas. As the church — rather than argue and spend time convincing Christians — God would have us spend time raising funds to send more shots to Haiti and India and every country in need.
“‘I was sick and you looked after me…’ ‘when did we see you sick?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25:36, 39-40
“I was unvaccinated and you brought the shot to me.” THIS is God’s vision.