This weeks article on Christian Today.
Jesus is the Vaccine
It’s the middle of winter, the Snow Queen rules and yet Aslan has come, the snow begins to melt, and we are heading for a summer paradise. One thing that the UK Government seems to have got right in this Covid disaster is the vaccine.
A year ago we were told that it could take up to 20 years to develop a vaccine – if at all. But here we are a year later.
Around 20 per cent of the UK population has now received a first dose and there is great hope that things may return to ‘normal’ in the not too distant future. That is good news indeed and as Christians we should express our thankfulness to the Lord for answered prayer.
And there are similar good news stories coming from further afield too. Over 130 million people have now been vaccinated worldwide. Israel has vaccinated 66 per cent of its population, and the US 13 per cent. We thank God.
However, it intrigues me that the vaccine is being spoken of in pseudo religious terms. If the NHS is the modern UK religion (remember how we have been told to stay at home to save the NHS – forgetting that it is the NHS that is supposed to save us?), then the vaccine is the saviour.
So let’s look at some of the comparisons between the Good News of Christ and the good news of the vaccine:
When it comes to the Gospel, there are anti-vaxxers as well
They don’t believe that sin is real or serious. Or they think they can handle it and it won’t really affect them. They behave as though they will live forever, or they believe that either someone will save them, or they don’t need saved at all. Anti-vaxxers may end up doing harm to their bodies – or those of others. But ‘anti-Gospellers’ do harm to both body and soul.
The vaccine is leading to a great deal of pride and hubris
Look how great we are! We can save ourselves. The Gospel makes us humble because we know that we cannot save ourselves. It took the Son of God to come and die for us.
The vaccine will not save us from death
Even if we were all vaccinated and the death counters on the news were to stop, death itself will not have been stopped. Every day over 150,000 people die in the world – that’s 56 million every year. A Covid vaccine will not stop that. The vaccine will provide a welcome reprieve for many. But it won’t give a single person eternal life. The Gospel promises not only new life now but an eternal life (John 3:16) – without pain, suffering or tears (Revelation 7:17).
The vaccine may give us a false or temporary peace and confidence
It is the Gospel that gives us a real and lasting hope.
The vaccine (and the fallout from Covid) benefits the rich most
It is the wealthy who have the means to survive the economic fallout – and some are even benefitting from it. And as usual, it is the poor who suffer the most. The rich nations will have double and triple doses for their citizens; the poorest will do well to have even 10 per cent of their populations vaccinated – although self-interest as well as compassion may encourage the rich to share.
The Gospel’s priorities are different. Jesus was sent to preach Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18), not to those who could afford it most. There were not many ‘mighty and noble’ called. It was not primarily the movers and shakers who Christ called but the moved and shaken.
As we look at these contrasts perhaps the Church needs to reflect on the public message it is putting out. As the historian Tom Holland commented, as important as health advice is, he doesn’t want church leaders handing it out. He wants to know what God has to say. I have heard church leaders far more passionate about ‘doing the right thing’ by obeying the government, than they are about doing the right thing by obeying God (although the two are not always necessarily opposed!).
At a personal level perhaps each of us needs to stop and reflect. It’s not wrong to be sceptical and ask questions about the vaccine. Neither is it wrong to be sceptical and ask questions about the Gospel. But we need to stop and listen to the answers, accept the evidence and act upon it.
Christians of all people should not be afraid of the vaccine – or of the virus – even if it doesn’t work for us and even if we have an adverse reaction.
We know that at the end of the day, we are going the way of all flesh, but “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26).
As Richard Sibbes puts it, “He that looks God in the face often in prayer, and seeking him, may look death in the face.”
And in a sermon on Psalm 117, he makes this beautiful statement:
“Christ is not sweet, until sin be bitter.”
There are those who won’t take the vaccine and who won’t take Covid seriously until they experience it. And there are those who won’t seek Christ until they become conscious of sin. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick (Matthew 9:12).
The world cries ‘is there a vaccine?’ Thankfully the answer is ‘yes’. The Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22). There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole! Christ is the vaccine for the whole world at its deepest point of need. Let us share Him!