The familiar proverb “prevention is better than cure” rings true today. It is our Christian responsibility to cooperate with attempts that are presently being made to prevent COVID-19 from causing further destruction among God’s people than it has already done.
Covid-19 is a virus that:
a. spreads from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing,
through close personal contact or through touching your nose, mouth, or eyes before washing of hands;
b. can affect ALL persons causing a variety of symptoms with effects that are worst for persons with previous health problems (comorbidities) as well as for the most vulnerable in the society, particularly those in situations of poverty;
c. impacts and has implications, and uncertainties for every aspect of our lives and livelihoods – health, education, social interaction, employment, economic viability, future life prospects. Anyone can be infected by the virus and as rational Christians we cannot use ‘faith in God’ as a reason for not complying with the urgent requests to be vaccinated. Belief in God is not a justification for putting ourselves and others at risk. No Christian should deliberately walk into danger and then plead the blood of Jesus;
d. refocused our understanding of health based on the justification for the wearing of masks. One does not wear a mask only to protect oneself from the spread of the coronavirus but also to protect the other person from infection so that both parties are simultaneously protected. Health, then, is focused on the well-being not only of self but on the entire community through a caring and voluntary action, based on love of God and neighbour, and, not through force or by law, but, through a deep awareness of the danger, harm and tragedy that can result from being infected. With Covid- 19’s potential to cause grievous harm through human contact, one’s health has implications for the health of the other. We cannot be dismissive of public health and the need to create and maintain a healthy environment in which everyone can live, work, learn and worship.
Vaccination constitutes a form of prevention, designed to stop diseases from happening. It is one of several ways of affirming love for one another. Consequently, resistance to the taking of a vaccine conflict with concern and love for each other in securing the well-being of all. While one has the right and freedom to take or not to take a vaccine, one’s right and freedom is limited by the right and freedom of the other to be protected from infection. One should not use one’s right not to be vaccinated without considering the rights of others. One should not use his or her right not to be vaccinated to be a possible source of infection, by the virus, for the other.
What emerges out of this deep awareness is an understanding of love of the other. Note the implications of the message contained in Romans 13. In Romans 13: 8 (“owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”). So, while you may have permission, you have limits. In society, there are limits on our behaviour towards each other. Listen to Paul: “… love does no wrong to a neighbour…” Romans 13:10). So, love based on the standards set by Jesus Christ is not only what you do but also what you do not do. Love, based on Jesus’s standards would not steal, commit adultery, covet, murder (Romans 13:9); love is what we refuse to do for the sake of the other’s well-being. The refusal is the fulfilling of the law. Paul says when you love, you fulfil the law. In this context, the law sets limits. As such, love cannot only be about that I do not ‘feel to wear a mask or take a vaccine’ but about the danger, harm and tragedy that will result from not wearing a mask or taking a vaccine. We fulfil the law of Christ when we ‘bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
In the final analysis, COVID-19 might justifiably be regarded as the unseen enemy alluded to in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6: 12 “ For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm”.
In the Christian’s refocused understanding of health, vaccination constitutes part of the whole armor of God that is needed alongside other weaponry – mask wearing, handwashing, physical/ social distancing – to fulfil the law of love in the context of the corona pandemic.