Dear Damascus Church & School Family –
As those called to shepherd Christ’s flock at DCC, one of our tasks as Elders is to watch out for possible threats, and to call Christ’s sheep to listen for His instructions (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2). With the increased availability of the vaccines for COVID-19, one of the real threats to Christ’s flock is the division that can happen between those whose convictions lead them to take the vaccine and those whose convictions won’t allow them to do so. For that reason, the Elder Council would like to offer, what we believe to be, Christ’s instructions for how we must operate as those who are His sheep. While this statement directly addresses the COVID-19 vaccine, the principles outlined here could be applied to a number of other issues.
- Follow your biblically-informed conscience.
In Romans 14:5, Paul encourages believers that, when they make decisions of conscience “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (v. 5). The reason for this is because it is a sin to go against one’s conscience (v. 23). Mark Dever summarizes this truth this way: “Conscience cannot make a wrong thing right, but it can make a right thing wrong.”
Each person will be held accountable by God for whether or not he or she listened to his or her God-given conscience. For that reason, it is important to train your conscience to be aligned with the Scriptures, and not allow it to be seared by sin (1 Timothy 4:2). Your conscience may change over time as you calibrate it to be more in line with the Word of God (ex. Peter in Acts 10). And someday, when we see Christ face to face, we may all learn that there were areas where our consciences were either too permissive or too restrictive.
With that in mind, humbly follow your biblically-informed conscience, humbly seek to continually calibrate it more closely to the Word of God, and humbly be patient with others as they do the same.
- Do not let this divide us.
In John 17:23, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one, united as brothers and sisters with Christ as their shared Savior and God as their shared Father. That oneness did not mean that they would always have the same opinion on everything, but that they would present a picture in their shared faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
On the issue of whether or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Christ-following, Gospel-believing, and heaven-bound Christians have a variety of opinions. And since the Scriptures do not directly address vaccines, the decision to take the vaccine or not is an issue of one’s conscience before God, and one day each person will give an account for his or her choices (Romans 14:12). Consequently, one of the primary ways you can love your brother or sister in Christ, and be an answer to Christ’s prayer, is to not let this issue bring division or hostility between you.
In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul addressed the issue of conscience, and how believers were to respond to one another in areas of Christian freedom. And while vaccines were not the topic at hand, he laid out some principles for how we are to treat one another, as members of the body of Christ, when we disagree over matters of conscience. He exhorted the Church to welcome those who disagree with you, but to not quarrel over opinions (v. 1), not pass judgment on one another or be a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (v. 13), but rather to pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (v. 19).
Out of love for Christ, a desire to love and protect others, and for the glory of Christ’s Name, some will take the vaccine, and others will not. And so, as you engage in conversation with your brothers and sisters in Christ, do not let this issue divide or bring hostility between you, and do not pass judgment on one another’s consciences. Rather, in your discussions, pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (v. 19; 12:8).
- Do your homework
There is a lot of information being disseminated through the news and online regarding the different COVID-19 vaccines, their sources, their effectiveness, and their potential side-effects. Some of it is true and helpful, some of it is not. As you consider what you choose to believe, and what you choose to share, do your homework to make sure you are basing your decisions on the facts. Seek out reputable sources with supporting data, and abstain from spreading false information or conspiracies (Proverbs 19:9; 1 Timothy 4:7).
- Whether you get the vaccine or not, trust God.
Whether you choose to take the vaccine or not, make your decision an expression of faith in God. God is the giver and taker of life, and only God is sovereign over viruses, diseases, and all other kinds of illnesses (Deut. 32:39). Consequently, no vaccine is 100% effective against any virus, no vaccine is at all effective if God’s healing hand is not involved, and no vaccine can bring about harmful side-effects outside of God’s permission.
Therefore, if you choose to take the vaccine, do it as an expression of faith and in gratitude for the gracious gift of medicine which He often uses to bring healing and protection. If you choose not to take the vaccine, do it as an expression of faith and gratitude for the gracious gift of His ability to provide healing and protection without medicine.
Whatever you decide about the vaccine, like anything else in life, make your decision and speak of it as one whose ultimate faith and trust are in God.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 15:5-6
- The DCC Elder Council/DCS School Board
 Mark Dever quoted in Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley, Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 65.