Have you heard someone say this, when deciding not to have the Covid vaccine? Does this attitude mean that a Christian who says this has more faith than the person who goes and gets vaccinated? And the bigger question, does God look after us when we expect him to protect us from a virus that is world-wide, and that has killed more than five million people?
The bottom line is God does care for us, and knows us intimately.
(Psalm chapter 139 spells that out.) We may want to look for and to hope that God will work a miracle, whereas often God’s provision comes to us through human agency. Frequently it’s in the practical events of everyday that the hand of God can be seen. The boy who brought his lunch to Jesus, saw those ordinary items of food transformed into an abundance that brought sustenance to thousands.
We too can see the hand of God in the way in which the vaccines have been developed and used with millions of people around the world, to prevent them from getting really sick and possibly dying. Following the example of Jesus who healed people, Christian workers and missionaries have worked through the centuries to bring healing to many peoples, and in the process discovered various forms of treatment that have transformed the lives of many. The work of a few dedicated scientists in laboratories today also becomes a miracle of transformation for millions. (This approach contrasts with those in other religions who may see anything that happens to them as being the will of God – so therefore you just accept it. Or you try to appease the gods/spirits by making offerings and carrying out rituals.)
When someone says, God will look after them, and they choose not to be vaccinated, (unless it’s for medical reasons), they are, in effect, telling God that what is being offered through the vaccine is to be dismissed. Such a person implies they know better than any health professional or government official – and they are presuming upon God. Sadly, I read of one grandmother with a number of underlying health conditions who said that because God had looked after her and brought her through in the past, then she expected that God would do the same during the pandemic, and therefore she didn’t need to be vaccinated.
Oliver Cromwell a few hundred years ago, when he was preparing his troops for battle, said to them, “Trust God – and keep your (gun)powder dry.”Damp gunpowder could not be used in the guns that were being used by his troops. Martin Luther, when asked what he would do that day, if he knew Jesus was coming back the next day, replied that he would still go out and plant his apple trees, as he had originally intended to do. Jesus, after healing someone, sometimes asked for the person to be given some food.
In other words, if our faith is not practical, and exercised in the here and now, by ignoring or dismissing the practical means available to us, then our faith can be seen as ‘too spiritual’ and irrelevant. Sadly, some of the people who said they were putting their faith in God rather than in a vaccine, have subsequently caught Covid and died.
In this context, it helps to look a little closer at Jesus’ response when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. He was tempted to take short cuts, to turn stones into bread, to be a miracle worker who put God to the test. (See Matthew 4.) We too need to follow his example; and not presume that God will do something ‘awesome’ that proves God’s power and our faith. (Sometimes a miracle of healing does happen, and we do give thanks for what God has done. A friend of mine, a receptionist in a medical centre, was recently healed of a condition that was increasingly crippling her – in quite a remarkable way.)
Many Christian workers speak of the miracles of healing that they have seen in parts of the world where there is much poverty, little health care, and where people’s lives are characterised by grim, daily efforts to survive. Education is sometimes non-existent, there is much ignorance of basic hygiene and people are beset by palpable spiritual forces. It’s in those contexts that people can be given hope by the provision of supplies and medical care, along with seeing God at work in miracles of healing.
Many friends I know have a circle surrounding their profile photos on Facebook which includes the words, “I am vaccinated for the good of Aotearoa.” It is not just for our own welfare that someone is choosing to be vaccinated, it is for the good of others. Similarly, when we exercise faith, we want to ask God to look after others – and not just to look after me. The vaccine can be regarded as one of God’s ways to enable us to do that.
Liz Hay rejoices in living in a beautiful part of God’s creation in a high country mountain basin; and she also rejoices in hearing stories of God at work in people’s lives. One of her favourite activities is reading fascinating biographies that illustrate the wonderful ways God works uniquely with each person.