Amidst all of the collateral damage and fallout which COVID-19 has wreaked over the past year, perhaps least anticipated was the unexpected and surprising division it has brought amongst believers who would ordinarily seek to find a commonality in order to maintain unity. Yet, no one could have predicted that intense passions would be so easily inflamed when deciding how to deal with the issue of vaccinating or not vaccinating.
What began as a discussion which objectively attempted to look at and weigh the many pros and cons, soon turned into the formation of two very distinct camps. Here, in Israel, it was, perhaps, more intense, because very early on, due to the agreement made between our government and Pfizer, vaccines were readily available and strongly promoted by both the Ministry of Health and political ruling parties. Touted as the envy of the world, Israeli leaders were proud that Israel would “forge the way” and be the very first to have access to what they were calling a miracle treatment for the pandemic which was plaguing all of mankind. It, therefore, wasn’t long before everyone hopped on board with much enthusiasm, feeling as if they had a jumpstart on every other nation.
Consequently, a great number of physicians, both secular as well as those among the body of believers were quick to give their endorsement and confidently assure the public that this was a safe, even the prudent step to take. Believers who had no hesitation, likewise, began to build a case for not just its efficacy but also for the morality of how they believed being vaccinated represented a loving act towards one another, as they sought to protect their fellow citizens.
Others, however, who were hesitant of a new and rushed vaccine which had not yet received FDA approval but merely emergency use status, viewed the vaccine with much skepticism and even saw the great push on everyone as an act of coercion. That feeling continued to grow, as with the passage of time, government officials began to understand that some individuals were not running to be vaccinated and actually expressing their intent not to do so. Those personal decisions caused leaders to take a more heavy-handed approach and press unvaccinated citizens to comply with the strong recommendation to vaccinate. Sadly, in their zeal, some municipal authorities sent out messages to the parents in their districts threatening to not allow their children to continue their education if they would not relent to this demand of being inoculated. It wasn’t long before the “green passport” became official policy, leading to more of a division as the unvaccinated soon became disenfranchised from entering restaurants, gyms, cultural and sports events – causing them to feel like second-class citizens in their own country.
This new and divisive spirit found its way into the body of believers with some congregations opting to comply with the green rules and others not. It almost seemed as if leaders were forced to take sides and either strongly promote vaccinations or express their own hesitation. Needless to say, the end result was a sharp departure from the unity that we have always enjoyed one with another.
It is in this backdrop of events that God, undoubtedly, is admonishing us to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) knowing, as the scripture continues, that “to each one of us grace has been given as Messiah apportioned it.”
In order to do that, however, there cannot be a personal agenda on the part of either spiritual leaders or individuals, because we, as a minority in Israel, cannot be divided and hope to enjoy the blessings of God upon us. It just doesn’t work that way. More than ever, we need to be unified within the deep love and regard we are to have for one another. We are compelled by that love to bear one another, believe one another and support one another.
No true believer would ever consider exercising control or manipulation over others as a justifiable act which would be sanctioned by the God who has given us a spirit of freedom (2 Cor. 3:17) and promised to guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
Each one of us plays an integral role in the type of blessed or toxic environment we create in our particular sphere of influence. So, perhaps, a good alternative to pushing a particular position would be for each leader to speak earnestly and forthrightly to their people and let them know that while there are differing opinions on the vaccine, we, as believers, recognize the freedom of each individual to make the decision which they believe will work best for them after having sought the Lord. Those decisions should be respected and not second-guessed. After that has been said, offering up a heartfelt and sincere prayer for the Lord to guide and direct each one would be the roadmap to that freedom, along with the understanding that God doesn’t always speak in the same way to everyone.
Nothing will be more unifying to the body of believers than allowing the One who saved them and continues to care for them to guide them into all truth! He is, after all, the Good Shepherd whose sheep do hear His voice!