Editor's Note: This is part two of a 3-part series about COVID-19 and its vaccine. You can read part 1 here.
My dear friend of decades, Senior Pastor Ricky Texada of Covenant Church in Texas, in the prime of his life with no serious health conditions, was suddenly hospitalized last month. A few days ago, I spoke at his memorial service. He leaves behind a congregation in shock, a beautiful wife, and two outstanding sons, both of them star athletes and committed Christians.
Even after contracting a mild case of COVID last October, I had not really known how serious this virus was.
COVID took his life. In the wake of this tragic loss, the seriousness of the virus becomes more real. To preside over a funeral and pray with a grieving family is usually heartrending. Yet recent funerals seem different, in that some people are feeling an accompanying fear.
If you do a funeral of someone who died in a car accident, few in the room walk away fearing that. But you add a layer of concern with COVID because there are unknowns. “Wow, this is really close to home now. Am I safe? I was in the home with this person and I haven’t had it yet. What should I do?”
Fear is ultimately the thing we must address. I grew up in a family that didn’t trust medical science, partly due to beliefs that misapplied biblical teaching. My parents were saved in a Holiness Pentecostal church, which believed you only seek God in prayer for your healing. Members were not allowed to go to a doctor. They were sincere people, but misguided.
Today, I believe in healing in prayer and I also believe God provides healing through medicines and treatments that doctors prescribe. A good doctor always fights for life. They’re always out to help people and, as their Hippocratic Oath states, to do no harm.
Sometimes healing does not come by any means. In those instances, one truth resounds in the Scripture that reads, “The secret things belong to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) When I don’t understand what happens, God still has a plan. So I have to trust God. A synonym for faith is trust. It’s the harder side of faith.
While it is easier said than done, when fear comes to the attack, it must be combated with faith.
Top 3 reasons some believers are vaccine-resistant
Being connected as a pastoral figure to churches nationwide, today I am seeing three reasons for vaccine resistance among some Christians.
Number one, you could call hyper-patriotism. Part of what defines the culture of America is rugged individualism. They say, “We don't want to give up our freedoms. So, bless God, the government is not going to mandate me to have a vaccine.” Related to this, some are resistant due to what their favorite political candidate has said or not said. The truth is: this is a fight to save lives against a deadly virus, and it’s not a political football to be kicked around.
The second is fear. Sometimes people don’t want the vaccine because it’s administered with a needle, and they’re afraid of that. Others may be fearful because they read online the COVID vaccine might make them crippled or some other claim. While the internet has given everybody a microphone, much of what’s said is not true. A friend recently told me: “I don’t know about recovery of sight of the blind, but the internet sure has enabled the dumb to speak.” He said that in jest, yet the spread of misinformation reflects a serious lack of discipleship.
Third, it’s for some kind of faith reason. “I just trust God,” people say. As sincere as that can sound, it can be a shroud for fear. I believe and thank God that he has given us medical advancements to save lives including penicillin, treatments for cancer, and yes, even vaccines for this coronavirus.
These reasons for resistance are not new. As a child, I had not received any vaccines. At age 14, my family moved to Houston and the school wouldn’t allow me and my siblings to attend. Eventually, we got those vaccines required for public health reasons. In certain contexts, vaccines were mandated then just as they are now.
Personally, I decided to get the COVID vaccine—in part, because I am confident the benefits outweigh the risks. Everything we do has a risk-benefit ratio. You may decide you’re not going to go to the store and get food because you might get killed in a car accident. But you're going to starve if you don't get food. The benefits of going to the store are a lot more than the risks. Anything that you do in life involves weighing such factors.
As a minister of the Gospel, I have a higher reason. Often I preach in another state or in another nation. Increasingly, we’re not going to be able to travel unvaccinated … and I don’t even mean it’s going to be a government mandate. Many churches are going to require it of their staff—certainly, those ministering to children—and even guest speakers. It’s about serving the flock.
When I see all of that on the horizon, it’s not worth it to fight the COVID vaccine. To me, drumming up resistance to it is not a mountain worth dying on.
Mike Hayes is founding pastor of Covenant Church in Carrollton, Texas, and serves as president of Churches in Covenant, a network of more than 50 evangelical churches nationwide.