MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: Jesus and the vaccine

By Lander Bethel
Special to the Herald Democrat

How do you feel about being vaccinated? What do you think Jesus would do? The Jesus I know is one who was concerned about healing and making the world whole, about including those who were marginalized or told they didn’t belong, the ones who were kept from the inner circles because they were not accepted. I think Jesus would persuade us to receive the vaccine.

Jesus’ concern is for all people. His concern is for health. I think Jesus expects us to use wise judgment, which means using the intelligence we’ve been given to do what is best. But that doesn’t end with our personal concern. Faith points us in the direction of caring for others. Receiving the vaccination is about giving protection to children who are too young to be vaccinated, to people with compromised immune systems who are more vulnerable than you, and to people who can’t be vaccinated for other reasons. We do it for all of us, not just one of us.

Some have said they’re going to strengthen their immune system with vitamins or nutrients. Others have said they believe they’re young enough and in good enough shape to fend off any virus. This is no different from the smallpox virus or the polio virus that killed, maimed, or caused terrible suffering for thousands of people until vaccines specific enough to irradicate these diseases were developed and widely distributed by our government and many other agencies. And this was done for the benefit of everyone. The vaccines work by strengthening our immune systems. They teach the cells in our immune systems how to respond to this new virus. It’s done using the science that was developed to combat AIDS and other viruses that have come along that are new to us over the past 20 to 30 years.

A few days ago, a Texas Baptist pastor was interviewed about being very sick with the virus. He was convinced he was strong and healthy enough at 49, that he didn’t need to worry about it. He had also suggested to his congregation that they shouldn’t bother with being vaccinated. He became very sick. Afterwards, he confessed to the radio interviewer that he was arrogant to think he would not get sick. He pleaded with people to get vaccinated for the benefit of all of us. This is something that’s bigger than our individuality and does not respect our sense of invincibility.

Martin Luther, writing during the Bubonic plague of the 1500s said:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I will fumigate, purify the air, administer medicine, and take medicine. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order to not become contaminated, and thus perchance inflict and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me. But, I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death of the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely. This is a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy, and does not tempt God.”

There’s an old tale about a man caught in a flood, who climbed up on top of his roof. Someone spotted him from a raft and offered help. “No,” he said, “God will save me.” The water got higher. Someone came by in a boat and offered help. “No,” he said, “God will save me.” The water got higher. Someone flew down close to him in a helicopter and offered help. “No,” he said, “God will save me.” Finally, the water got so high that he was swept away and drowned. When he got to the pearly gates and saw God he said, “I’ve always believed in you and I was sure you were going to save me. Why didn’t you?” God said, “I saw you there, and I sent a raft, a boat, and a helicopter. But you said ‘no,’ every time.”

This new variant of the virus is presenting us with a third wave of illnesses. The first vaccine has now received full Federal Drug Administration approval, with others about to be approved as soon as their paperwork is complete. This may be the helicopter for those who haven’t been vaccinated. I hope you’ll say yes and get it done.

Lander Bethel

Lander Bethel is the minister of Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church in Sherman and First Presbyterian Church in Denison. He earned a doctoral degree in ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Genna, live in Sherman. They have three sons. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.