Vaccine Mandates and the Believer’s Response


I am not a doctor; therefore, I am not qualified to give medical advice, and I will not provide medical advice. I am, however, a pastor and my heart is to help believers navigate difficult issues. One issue that is sure to confront many Christians is COVID vaccine mandates.   To put it bluntly, many of you will be required to receive a COVID vaccine or face the consequences in the coming days. As a result, you face the very real possibility of losing everything you have worked for if you refuse the vaccine. We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times.

The purpose of this article is not to encourage or discourage you from taking the vaccine. I believe the use of vaccines is an issue of God-given personal liberty that demands careful and informed thought and prayer. I am personally thankful for vaccines. For more than a century, vaccines have eradicated much suffering and aided in human flourishing. God gives knowledge, and knowledge has been rightly applied to develop many vaccines that have saved lives and produced a robust quality of life for millions of people—this is something for which every believer can rejoice.

However, I also understand that scores of people have justifiable reasons for questioning and even refusing the newest COVID vaccines. The question at hand is, should you take the vaccine if your employer or other authority requires it?

Here are three questions you can use to help gain clarity as you seek to make a difficult decision.

Is receiving a COVID vaccine sinful?

Vaccines are neither moral nor immoral, but they can be the result of an immoral action. We know that scientists use aborted fetal cell lines to develop and test many modern vaccines. This practice can lead to a moral dilemma for those who believe that human life begins at conception and should be protected. Ethicists instruct people to examine three factors before taking a vaccine sourced from fetal cell lines. First, how long ago did the abortion from which the fetal cells were collected take place? Second, were actual fetal cells from an aborted baby used, or did scientists use cloned fetal cells to source or test the vaccine? In other words, is the vaccine the direct or indirect result of an abortion? Third, does using specific vaccines incentivize and encourage medical science to seek additional fetal cell lines from newly aborted babies?

Reports claim that the new mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were not cultured from aborted fetal cell lines. However, scientists did use the HEK-293 (HEK stands for human embryonic kidney) cell line from a baby aborted in 1972/3 for early testing purposes. The use of fetal cell lines to create or test vaccines is troublesome, yet many Christian ethicists insist that such vaccines, while ethically tainted, are not always sinful.

Will your informed conscience allow you to receive the vaccine?

God is the Lord of every believer’s conscience. Andrew Nasseli and J.D. Crowley define the conscience as “your consciousness of what you believe is right or wrong.”[1] The Word of God ultimately informs your conscience, but it is also influenced by tradition, experience, preference, and sin. When an action is not inherently sinful, your conscience may or may not allow you to participate in that action.

In Romans, chapter fourteen, the apostle Paul addressed a group of believers struggling with one another over matters of opinion. Paul’s instruction required every believer to be “fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5) Paul also wrote, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:22-23) Paul wanted his readers to know that they can and should follow their conscience so long as their conscience is properly calibrated. Furthermore, there is no condemnation when a believer participates in a non-sinful activity that does not violate their biblically informed conscience. Conversely, believers sin when they participate in something that their conscience condemns—even if that activity is not sinful in and of itself.

How does a believer calibrate their conscience? Nasseli and Crowley provide two principles to help you calibrate your conscience. First, you must calibrate your conscience with the truth. Every believer has the Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit who enlightens the mind and gives understanding. Your responsibility is to test your thoughts and convictions against God’s truth as revealed in Scripture.

What about issues outside of Scripture, such as COVID vaccines? We know God’s Word is truth, but there is also truth outside the Bible. As a believer, you must be committed to discovering the truth about questionable issues so that your conscience can be rightly calibrated. Practically, this means that you do not settle for what reporters tell you on television or the posts of social media influencers. Instead, you research issues and consult direct sources so that you can discern between truth and error.

Second, you must calibrate your conscience with due process. Rushed decisions are sometimes wrong decisions. Wisdom demands that you take the necessary time to think through questionable issues so that your conscience aligns with God’s will. Depending on the issue and your spiritual maturity, you may be able to work through this process quickly. The general principle is, do not rush yourself.

After looking inside and outside the Bible to learn the truth and taking the time to think through the issue, your conscience may allow you to receive the COVID vaccine. However, if your informed conscience remains uneasy, you should wait. Taking a COVID vaccine is not, on its own, sinful—but taking it against your conscience is sin.

Are you willing to live with the consequences of your decision?

Every decision you make has consequences, and you regularly perform rapid risk/reward assessments throughout the day—receiving the COVID vaccine is no different. If your conscience does not allow you to participate, you must be willing to lose your job, scholarships, or other benefits and luxuries to which you have become accustomed. On the other hand, if your conscience will allow you to get vaccinated, you must be willing to accept potential short-term or long-term side effects, which include those that are known and those that are, at this time, unknown. Either decision will cost you something, so you must be willing to live with the consequences, whether they are good or bad.

You are a steward of your body—which is a gift from God that was given to glorify God. Therefore, the decision to inject any substance into your body should not be taken lightly, regardless of pressure from society, government, your employer, family, and friends.  By God’s grace, you do not have to make uniformed decisions about the COVID vaccine. God has given you guidance and direction in the form of His Word, His Spirit, and your conscience. You also have access to loads of accurate information in the form of scientific studies, medical journals, and robust research efforts centered on COVID and the vaccines developed to fight the virus.  Use these sources to help calibrate your mind with truth.  By asking the right questions you will make the right decision for you and your family.   

I intended not to tell you what to do but to provide a biblical framework in writing this article. I pray I have given you a useful tool to help you make an informed decision that will ultimately glorify God.

[1] Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley, Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 42.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

CMI, Vaccines, and Vaccination is a long article that is both informative and helpful.  You can access the article here.

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