The debate rages on… do Christians have the right to decide not to get the vaccine, or would doing so be a violation of the command to love your neighbor as yourself? Thankfully, God has not left us in the dark on the matter. Though the discussion of a 21st century virus and its medical interventions won’t be found in the 66 books, we have all the principles we need to know how God would have us act.

First, determine if there’s a command.

This is the simplest step, and one we can likely all agree on. If there is a clear commandment from God on the matter, we need to obey it. So, here’s the decision that has to be made by churches once and for all: is it a matter of opinion, or is it a matter of commandment?

This author’s view is that this matter is in the realm of opinion. If you disagree and truly believe that not getting the Covid shots is a clear violation of the 2nd Greatest Commandment, you may disregard this article. In the meantime, start drawing up church discipline against those who will not get vaccinated. If you’re not ready to confront somebody and ultimately kick them out over their shot status, then maybe consider how certain you are that it’s a clear commandment.

Second, if there isn’t a command, look to Romans 14.

We don’t have a clear commandment on the matter, but for situations where there is not a clear commandment we have Romans 14. In this chapter Paul raises examples of matters in which Christians held strong views about the morality of certain actions but did not have the Scriptural backing to bind them on others.

Some felt that Christians shouldn’t eat meat, or that they should (or shouldn’t) celebrate certain days. But their personal conviction was just that – personal. This one Paul labels as the one who is “weak in faith.” The “weaker brother” label isn’t an insult, though. It’s nothing more than a designation for the one whose conscience has a more narrow interpretation of one’s rights in a matter where there is no clear, direct command.

The commands to the weak and strong are clear.

The strong are not to look down on or “despise” the weak for their convictions, and the weak are not to judge the strong for not sharing those convictions (14:3). It’s as simple as that. Both are striving to please the Lord, and both will answer to Him for their convictions (14:6-8). It’s not our business to decide how somebody else should act in these matters (14:4), unless we truly think they’re commanded to act a certain way. In that case, circle back to point #1.

Additionally, we are not to make each other stumble (14:13). If somebody believed eating meat was wrong, Paul urged the meat eaters not to make it a cause of offense or stumbling for them.

Finally, we are to pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which we may edify each other (14:19). This doesn’t mean one side must fully capitulate to the other to keep them happy. It means acknowledging the differences, determining to not let them come between us, and accommodating each other as best we can while in each other’s presence.

So, in this situation the “weaker brothers” would be those who are convicted of the need of masks and/or vaccinations. The “strong” would be those who do not share that conviction. Both opinions are fully valid. Each side is free to make their case to the other. Then, the commands come into play.

Those who have decided not to get vaccinated are not to look down on or criticize their brethren who do decide to get the shots. Those who believe the shots to be good and even morally important are not to judge those who don’t. Let each other be accountable to God (14:12), “let each be convinced in His own mind” (14:5), and let it go.

Each has a right to their opinion, and each has the right to not be forced or bullied into complying by the other.

This means not posting on Facebook about how those who get vaccinated are “sheep.”

This also means not posting on Facebook about how the unvaccinated don’t love others.

Neither of these make for peace or for building each other up. Peace cannot be conditional on making everybody agree with us or comply with our wishes.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for each other is to practice a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (as loathe as I am to use that phrasing). (Lest any claim they need to know who’s unvaccinated so they know who to avoid, remember getting the shot does not keep one from spreading the virus.) In practical terms, that seems to be what most are doing in person already. It’s on the internet that we need to get over it and let it go. We’re given room to express our view and why we made a choice for ourself one way or another, but we have no business projecting that choice onto others.

I recently reactivated my Facebook account after a year off and walked back in to the same daily war that was going on last year. The debates we’re having among ourselves are no different than the ones the worldly are having among themselves. The vaccinated and unvaccinated, pro-mask and anti-mask are at each other’s throats. News outlets on both sides are fanning the flames of anger at those on the other side.

It’s time we decide where our loyalty lies. Are we going to take up with our favorite news anchors and politicians against our fellow Christians, or are we going to refuse to let them come between us and our family? Will we find the faith to “let each be convinced in His own mind” and go on serving God together, or will we insist everyone must agree with our opinions and preferences in order to remain in fellowship? God is watching.