Romans 12:21 (NIV) – 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Luke 6:27-28 (NIV) – 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
We’re living in a world of increasing hostility and division. People feel threatened by those who choose not to get vaccinated because they see their choice as being reckless and cavalier with other people’s lives. And they’re frustrated because they feel that the unvaccinated are prolonging the pain of the pandemic. Others see the coercive force being implemented to pressure people into getting vaccinated as threatening the foundations of our civil freedoms. And they feel threatened by the potential dangers of the vaccine given questions about its long-term health impacts.
As Christians we find that it is through the chaos of all these questions and doubts that we are called to become peacemakers!
I have read reports of doctors who want to refuse treatment to unvaccinated patients or implement policies that reduce and delay their treatment. And I have listened to podcasts warning how coercive efforts to force people into receiving the vaccine violates the Nuremberg Code of ethics, which conveys the incredibly costly lessons learned from the events that transpired in Nazi Germany and prohibits both involuntary medical treatments and coercive force to induce such treatments. Both sides are heating up.
Regardless of where you fall on this issue – and “yes”, I also have very strong opinions – those who would follow Jesus must likewise be so captivated by the Prince of Peace that they also learn to become peacemakers! Where we see “evil”, we must overcome it with good. Where we see “abusers”, we must care for their well-being. In the same manner that the Prince of Peace died for those who hated him, so we must also love those we perceive as doing us harm.
The Prince of Peace teaches us that the first principle of peace is to consider how we would want to be treated if we were in someone else’s place, and to then render that same love and respect to them.
Let me first clear up two misconceptions about Christian love that I believe actually undermine its application before I apply this principle:
First, “love means to do what the other person wants.” There are very clearly times when love does not mean capitulating to the requests of the one you are trying to love. Trying to reduce Christian love down to the point where people never stand by their convictions undermines the application of love itself because love requires conviction.
Second, “love means agreeing.” There are very clearly times when two people cannot agree with one another in the moment. Perhaps, given time, agreement might be possible, but in the moment it cannot be found. That does not mean that the two who disagree cannot love one another by treating each other with respect, dignity, and personal care.
When applied, this means that we must treat one another with respect and dignity. We must care for each other’s essential needs. We must give each other room in our society. We must not make our disagreements the fundamental basis for our relationships with one another. And we must not require the other’s subjugation.
On the one side, how would I want to be treated if I supported vaccines?
I would want quick, reliable, and safe access to the vaccine for everyone. I would want to be able to make my case in favor of getting vaccinated to the public without threat of personal repercussions. I would want access to medical care in case something goes wrong.
So, for those who favor vaccines to love those who are opposed to vaccines means respecting their neighbor’s personal medical choices. They must not seek to use coercive pressure that isolates their neighbors from society or seek to impose economically punitive consequences on their unvaccinated neighbors. They should give them room to voice their opinions without fear of recrimination. And they should care for them if they become sick with COVID. Spiritually, they should be committed to praying for the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual health and safety of those who are unvaccinated. And they should not participate in villainizing their unvaccinated neighbors.
On the other side, how would I want to be treated if I opposed vaccines?
I would want control over my personal medical choices. I would want protection from coercive pressure that could isolate me from society or economically punish me for my personal medical choice. I would want to be able to make my case against getting vaccinated to the public without threat of personal repercussions. And I would want access to medical care if I contracted COVID.
So, for those who oppose vaccines to love those who favor vaccines means supporting their access to vaccines. They mustn’t villainize those who support vaccines or treat them as “enemies of liberty”. They should support and ensure their access to medical care if they suffer any adverse effects from the vaccine. Spiritually, they should be committed to praying that they do not experience any adverse effects from the vaccine. And they should pray for the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being of even those doctors and healthcare workers who are refusing treatment for the unvaccinated.
Regardless of how one feels about the vaccines, I believe this is the Christian way of peace.
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