We connect with a ministry in Africa called Tikkun Africa. One of their leaders asked several Tikkun Global leaders (our global family of ministries), if he should take the vaccine. His board has requested this of him to continue his work with helping children in need. I wrote him a response, and several of the others who received it encouraged me to publish it as an article. In addition, I have received dozens of emails from many of you asking my personal view…so, here it is.
The truth is, no one knows how safe the vaccine is—yet. So far, the results have been good; 95-97% effective against the virus in Israel. Infections are dropping rapidly here, even as the country opens up for business. (In other words, if it was not effective, the country opening up would have been a disaster.) The recent five-day trend in Israel has been promising, especially when compared with the statistics at the start of 2021.
- 1/16 8,450
- 1/17 8190
- 1/20 10,213
- 1/27 11,934
- 4/7 296
- 4/8 280
- 4/9 188
- 4/10 138
- 4/11 120
Back in January, just three months ago, we had one day with nearly 12,000 cases. Since then, we see a 99% drop in daily cases! So, yes, it would appear that the vaccine is quite effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19, as 5.3 million Israelis, 16 and above, have received the vaccine. That is almost 90% of those eligible (kids are not eligible yet).
It works, but…
Will there be long term issues with the vaccine? No one knows. Most governments have chosen to gamble on the vaccine over gambling on dealing with the virus through other medical treatments.
Trusting God Before, Trusting Him Now…
So, where am I now? I am trusting God, just like I did all last year. I was a good citizen and I had faith, that by being one, I would not get sick and did not (though I was unknowingly face to face for three hours with an infected person). I wore a mask, for the most part, and did what I could to make life easier for those on the front lines.
Now, I have taken the vaccine (I just got my second dose the other day) and am still trusting God. Before I was exercising faith not to get the virus; now, I am exercising faith to have no negative side-effects. That is where my faith is. Not to take it, would keep me from my work—which is a kingdom priority. I am more concerned about winning souls, ministering the Word and helping the hurting, than my health. I have taken risks my whole life to preach the gospel. I see this as the same. (You may not view it that way—and that’s okay ☺)
In the same way that God protected the Israelites against plagues, and in the same way that God will protect those in Revelation 9 from the locust/scorpion/monsters, I am trusting Him that even if it was a mistake to take the vaccine, He will see my heart, that I followed my conscience in an area that was not 100% clear, and He will keep me well.
What Does the Bible Say?
When it comes to governments, we are told to submit (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:12-17) whenever possible and not make trouble (1 Timothy 2:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:11). We are told that this is a good witness:
… and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
I think many were poor witnesses for Yeshua this year. I think of the Tennessee-based pastor who threatened to kick in the teeth of a Dunkin Donuts manager for asking him to wear a mask … and then bragged about it. If you continue reading to 1 Peter 3, he speaks of the submissive wife winning her husband through her behavior and life witness. I think that principle can be applied in many areas of life.
Vaccine is not Romans 13, but Romans 14—Disputable Matters
However, while Romans 13 was my rule all of last year in complying with government ordinances, the vaccine is a matter of prayer and conscience. Despite what some have wrongly reported, Israel is not forcing anyone to take the vaccine, although there has been strong social pressure.
Romans 14 speaks about what Paul calls “disputable matters.” He tells us to, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” (v. 1) In context, he is speaking about food and days of the week. But he is laying out a principle. Read the whole chapter if you can.
The principle is clear: on issues that are not clearly issues of sin—disputable matters—we should not judge each other.
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:4)
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (vv. 5-6)
Violating Your Conscience Is Sin
On these disputable matters, each person is required to follow their conscience— Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind—but then, we are to extend grace to others. I said several times above, ‘that is where my faith is.’ I get that from Romans 14. On disputable matters, you must become fully convinced and then operate in faith from there. He says, that if we act against our conscience, then for us, it is sin—even if it is not a sin in God’s eyes.
Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23)
In other words, if you feel that getting the vaccine would be sin, you should not do it! For you, it would be sin. If you feel that not getting it would be sin, then you too must obey your conscience.
When Not to Submit to Government?
There are times not to submit to government. These exceptions would be when government asks you to do something against the word of God, as with the disciples in Acts 4 and Daniel, when he was told not to pray. A year ago, tomorrow, we launched Shelanu TV, the first 24/7 Hebrew-speaking cable station in Israel. We were slammed by the government. We were threatened. But this was an Acts 4:19 issue—“You must judge whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God.” We would not, have not, given in and though they kicked us off of cable, we broadcast at shelanu.tv and on Facebook and YouTube. There are times to not submit!
However, the Bible doesn’t speak to every issue. I heard a pastor and his wife recently say that as Bible believers, they could not take the vaccine. But the Bible says nothing about vaccines. What they should have said was that their conscience would not allow them to take the vaccine. That’s biblical.
And that is the other exception: your own conscience. It is interesting that con-science comes from two words, meaning with (con) knowledge (science)… so it is more than just an inner uncomfortableness, it is a decision made with all the information combined with your inner witness. Or, your subconscious leading you based on all the information you have, plus your natural God-given knowledge of right and wrong.
But I heard it on the Internet!
The problem is that much of the knowledge being propagated is not actually science, but fake news. For instance, I had some very influential friends in the U.S. charismatic movement put out a video saying that “so many, many people have died” in Israel because of the vaccine “and it’s not being reported” … and that “400 pregnant women had miscarriages after getting the vaccine.”
If you hear that, then sure, your conscience based on the information given will tell you not to get it. But this is fake news. It simply isn’t true. Today, someone sent me a supposed quote from a former employee from Pfizer, where he said that within two weeks of getting the first shot 0.8% of people die. To be clear, if that were true, we would have 1,000,000 dead people in America and about 40,000 corpses in Israel. But people believe without even doing the maths or looking for confirmation. Some are obsessed with these videos—more than they are with the word of God. And then they unwittingly spread these lies to all their friends.
I don’t know anyone who died or anyone who knows someone who died from the vaccine. But I do know many people that have died from the virus—including a dear father of nine in our congregation. I am sure his family wishes he had had the vaccine, with all that we do know about it. He would be alive today, with his family.
So, once you have true information, then you can “with knowledge” listen to your conscience. Of course, the Holy Spirit can warn you of what you do not know. But just make sure that it is not the voices of others, but His voice. It is my opinion that believers are more susceptible to fake news and fake videos than ever before! We must be people of discernment, not emotion.
And then … no matter what you decide, don’t judge others on a disputable matter. That is sin.
So … my attitude is this. If not getting the vaccine prevented me from preaching the gospel, ministering aid to children, traveling to share His Word, etc., I would get the vaccine (and have). I have faith that even if there is something bad, God will protect me. At the end of the day, my life is in His hands. We need more faith in our very great God, and less conspiracy theories. No one can trick God! And HE lives in me.