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Question of faith and vaccines

Here we are in lockdown number 6, and it seems the only way out of this merry-go-round of lockdowns is that most of us need to be vaccinated against the virus, to stop it spreading so quickly and causing serious illness and death.

Having the COVID19 vaccination is a personal choice, of course, and many factors come into play when we are making that decision. We need to know about side-effects and safety, about what the options are, and which one is best for us at this time. People of faith might also pray for guidance. Daily, for so many different reasons, we take our concerns and decisions to God in prayer and seek to discern the right way forward for us and for those around us.

I’ve heard that there are people of faith who say, ‘I don’t need a vaccine, God will look after me,’ and I wonder about that view of God and of self. Does that mean that every single person in over 200 million cases of COVID19 and 4 million deaths across the world have not been under God’s providence and protection? Even the children? Even the mothers, fathers? Even the life-long elders, pastors and faithful followers of Jesus? Does it mean that God has turned God’s face away from these people and let them die, discarded them as not good enough, not worthy of protection?

Does that mean, if we hold this view, that those of us who avoid this dreadful virus are somehow more faithful and righteous than all the people who have died? Jesus had a strong warning to us if we start thinking in that way. I don’t recognise the God of abundant love and compassion in that scenario.

I talked to a few of my colleagues from other denominations. One said that he wasn’t having the vaccine because he didn’t trust it, it seemed all too rushed and not tested enough, but he knows another pastor and his wife who have had both doses.

It’s a personal choice. Another said that she prayed about it, unsure at first, but she felt firmly led by God to have the vaccine and has no hesitation in recommending it to others. She sees the vaccine as God’s provision, a way that God helps us.

This brought to mind one of my favourite psalms from the Hebrew Scriptures, Psalm 101. It begins with these verses: ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’. It ends with these words, ‘The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.’  Reading this psalm of assurance of God’s protection gives me hope and confidence, not as a personal, private protection, like an umbrella in the storm, but as a promise that God is working in the world for good, to help us and to protect us. I can see God at work in the great minds who have developed these vaccines, who understand the DNA of the virus and the variant strains.

I can sense the protection of God in the dedication of our health care professionals to administer these vaccines and care for us. The ending of the psalm speaks into our lockdown roundabout – our going out and coming in; in all ways, in all days, the Spirit of life is with us.

The impact of our decision goes wider than just ourselves. There’s also an element of responsibility and care for each other in this decision. Those of us in the middle years felt responsible for our older family members, now the Delta strain is threatening children, and we respond out of care for the little ones also, as well as for ourselves.

So, don’t use God as an excuse for not getting vaccinated. God sends us helpers, angels in many forms, who come to us in our need and bless us with protection.  History has shown us that vaccination works.

If you need more information to make your decision, there’s plenty around, and it comes from people we trust, the health professionals who care for us, our families and our communities. Talk to them, talk to your family, talk to me, talk to God.

Rev Jennie Gordon, Presbytery of Gippsland

Jennie Gordon

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