Why as a pastor I decided to get vaccinated

(Photo: iStock/Chansom Pantip)

I have received my first jab of the Pfizer vaccination here in New Zealand (the only vaccine available), and there is a story I want to share about why I'm an advocate for vaccination.

I've always called myself a cautious entrepreneur. I love the idea of creating new things and taking risks, and I have done that many times, but it's more than a small voice of caution that speaks to my dreams of inventiveness. So as the vaccine rollout gathered pace, that voice of caution encouraged algorithms to feed me more than my fair share of articles and opinions that fed restraint and caution.

For a long time I took the wait-and-see approach to the Covid vaccine, using the oft-heard justification that I'm young-ish, healthy-ish, and that even if I somehow attained the virus, I should be okay.

Yes, my level of scepticism was on the rise and like many people, I sometimes lie in bed over-thinking about life and the challenges in front of me.

On one such morning, out of a random corner of my thoughts, I heard that other quieter voice, the one I [sometimes] recognise as being God. Often it's hard to discern that voice from all the others, but years of spiritual practice have taught me a thing or two about hearing God's voice.

As a musician I have a wide repertoire of music that I enjoy and as I lay in bed that morning, the words of "Gotta Serve Somebody", a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan on his 1979 studio album Slow Train Coming, came to my mind. For those who know it, sing the chorus with me: "Well it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody."

Except I felt God lead me to change the words to, "You gotta trust somebody."

You see, I'm a rational thinker. I read widely and like to consider many points of view. That has been my experience as a disciple of Jesus. That morning I sensed God feed my thought pattern along the direction of thinking about trust. I've rationalised faith over my lifetime and I've rationalised Jesus over my lifetime, but for any current or future disciple, at some point, we've got to trust, we've got to have faith. There'll be questions that have to be left on the table. Trusting God is an act of faith with undetermined outcomes for today, and for eternity.

I felt God say that this is the same with the vaccine, and His question to me was: who are you going to trust? The small minority with conspiracy theories that might have a little credibility - but not much? Or the vast majority around the globe, including health experts, who have taken the vaccine themselves?

In our context in New Zealand that also includes the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who has risen to national prominence during the pandemic, and is an openly confident disciple of Jesus.

The question that God was asking me was a rhetorical one; it didn't need answering. I instantly knew the answer and what He was saying, and that receiving the vaccination would help my family, my church, and my nation (in that order).

Several hours later I drove to the Auckland Airport Mass Vaccination Centre (because we were in our harshest Level 4 lockdown and I needed a valid excuse for a drive), and experienced that interesting environment for the sake of history, receiving my first jab in the drive through marquee. The second jab will follow in six to eight weeks as prescribed.

I also know taking the vaccine is a personal choice, and as a Christian leader I'm not going to be overly vocal about what people should do. I serve a church that God has gifted freedom of choice to; people have been given levels of intelligence to work these things out; and there's more than enough information to make their choice.

On top of that, I in no way want to get stuck in any spiritual conspiracy theory and there is no way that I think the government is doing anything with the vaccine that is about control or socialism or anything like that - and there's not a single thought that the vaccine is the mark of the beast (really, there are more people than you think who are saying this).

Faith in Christ means that whatever happens in this world, God is with us and God is good. If you're on the fence about the vaccination programme, maybe you need to hear God asking the question He asked me: who are you going to trust?

The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John 16:33 have resonated with me over this time: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I am grateful that my faith has played a significant part in this very uncertain period of my life. The certainty of faith is something none of us should ignore.

Grant Harris is Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand.

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