Whether the Unvaccinated, Too, Can Be Saved
Your conscience must be ruled by God’s Word regardless of how many vaccines you’ve received or masks you wear. If we were facing a future in which the government would require everyone not to be vaccinated and never to wear a medical mask in public, then I would say the same thing. If we were facing a future in which churches were requiring people to leave if they had been vaccinated or were wearing a medical mask, I would say the same thing. That’s not a likely future, so I say this instead: the unvaccinated, too, can be saved. They may come into the church of God. They may receive the Word and the Supper of Christ. Our churches are open to the vaccinated and to the unvaccinated.
Soon the churches will be thronged or at least fuller than usual. As the people come into a sanctuary familiar or a little unfamiliar to them, ask yourself a few questions. What is the vaccination status of those people shuffling into unfamiliar pews? Have the college kids back in a church for the first time in months received their booster shots? Do these questions seem silly to you?
They aren’t silly to many, including governments in Europe and Canada, not even to our own federal government, which speaks to the unvaccinated as if they are a class of demons destined to torture and to be tortured while the righteous vaccinated shall persevere through every trial. Such questions already shape policy in German Lutheran congregations now requiring one’s Covid-19 status to determine entry into the house of God (a policy commonly called 3G abbreviating the German words for “recovered,” “vaccinated,” and “tested”). That policy is recommended by the government and required by some congregations, here for example. Easily and swiftly what is said in media broadcasts becomes required in churches. There is no time to ask whether Romans 13 means that everything someone in government says or proposes is constitutional. There is no time to ask whether the church must regulate its worship according to governmental dictate, as if the three young men’s worship should have been to the golden statue Nebuchadnezzar had commanded them to worship instead of to the true God. There is no time to distinguish between what is legal (abortion, for example) and what is godly (not committing murder). Conscience has no time to ponder or to compare the dictates with Scripture. Compliance is required now.
The invasion of everyone’s conscience by governmental and media pronouncements is not a matter for the church’s silence. If I am silent on something affecting people’s understanding of how daily life functions, what will I choose to discuss instead? Luther’s protest against indulgences mattered not because it was the hottest topic of medieval academic theology but because it impinged on what Christians did with their lives. The church cannot let her people’s lives and hearts be determined by everything except God’s Word.
We have perhaps been silent on practically all matters of everyday life except abortion because to speak about the required HR training in diversity that means our people’s tacit assent to transsexual ideology or about the incessant consumption of social media and news that sets everyone’s teeth and tempers on edge would be “too political” from the pulpit. But our consciences have all been informed therefore largely by educational history and media consumption, largely by Fox or CNN or MSNBC, largely by Apple News or Breitbart. The Word of God did not change in the past two years. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are still divine institutions. We are still encouraged to meet together, not neglecting to do so, as is the habit of some. God’s Word did not change between January 2020 and January 2022. What our phones and TVs told us changed, so we changed.
In the past two years the divisions that have opened up in our churches were therefore predictable. We often broke sharply along the lines of media consumption with vastly differing perceptions of what was true, what was worthwhile, what was good. This has created clean breaks in what were once small fissures in the body of Christ. These divisions have deepened with the media portrayal of dissent from official Covid-19 policies as “selfish,” which some Christians have explained to themselves as “not keeping the Fifth Commandment” if you are not (as time has gone on and media messaging has changed) not masked if you’re not sick, then masked, then double-vaccinated, now perhaps boosted.