Christians should not divide over COVID-19

COVID-19 has exposed deep cultural rifts in our country. These rifts preceded the virus hitting our shores, but those rifts have gotten wider and deeper as people become increasingly agitated about the impact the disease is having on our lives. The saddest thing about this, by far, is how it has divided the Church and pitted Christians against each other. (By “the Church,” I mean all denominations: The universal church.)

We see this division in the viral editorial by Lutheran pastor Keith Marshall, speaking of how faith in Christ gives him liberty to put others above himself, which is why he has been vaccinated. (I cannot find a link to the column, but search his name and the word column and you will see images.) Marshall makes reasonable points from Scripture… until he goes off the rails at the very end with the claim that using Christian faith as a reason for refusing the vaccine is taking the Lord’s name in vain and is therefore a sin.

No. Stop this.

Sincere Christians have different convictions about whether their faith permits them to take a COVID-19 vaccine. It is wrong to pronounce the decision you disagree with as “sinful,” especially if you are a pastor. We have liberty in Christ. There are principles from the Bible that we can consider in taking or not taking one of the vaccines, but there is not a clear commandment from Scripture on the matter of vaccinations. There are many places in the Bible where our obligations as Christians are clear, but this is not one of them.

I am fully vaccinated and have been for months. I obviously think it is a good idea to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But if someone disagrees with me, that does not mean he is “sinning.” If he invokes Christian faith as his reason for refusing the vaccine, that does not mean he is taking the Lord’s name in vain. This has been lost in our hyper-polarized age, but it actually is possible to think someone is wrong without thinking he is “sinning.” And as bad as this is in a secular context, it is far worse when it takes place in the Church.

This is the problem with our entire public discourse about COVID-19, pandemic mitigation policy, or individual choices and risk assessments. People who hold a different opinion are not people we disagree with or even people who are wrong. They are evil, or murderers, or tyrants, etc. They are “trying to kill people” or they are statists determined to crush us under the boot heel of tyrants. All of this is deeply unhealthy for our society, and these kinds of schisms should never be seen in the Church.