When a mandate stands against your conscience

What does one do if they are required to get a vaccine when it stands against their conscience? As a Pastor, this is a question I am often asked. There are things the Bible clearly instructs to do. There are things that the Bible clearly instructs us not to do. But what about things the Bible does neither? These are matters of conscience. Such matters are by conviction, and not convenience. If having the vaccine goes against your conscience, it is sin to do such. If not having the vaccine because you do not like needles, that is a convenience issue, and it would be wrong to not follow the regulation. If your conviction is that you should not get a vaccine, to not sin against God you should refrain.

Obedience to governing authorities
Romans 13:1-5 instructs us to obey governing authorities as a matter to keep one’s conscience clear. A clean conscience is the driver, and the role of governing authorities is to promote good and punish evil. When authorities go outside God’s role for government, we obey God rather than governing authorities. Do authorities have the right, biblically, to require a vaccine is a gray area. As a general rule, the Christian should obey, until the requirement goes against the Bible or one’s conscience. It is incongruous to obey the governing authority for a clear conscience when obedience goes against your conscience.

Disobedience governing authorities
While the rule is to obey governing authorities, there are exceptions to that rule. For example: when death or harm could occur (Exodus 1-2, Joshua 2), consumption is defiling (Daniel 1), unbiblical worship (Daniel 3), sharing the Gospel prohibited (Acts 2-8), prayer denied (Daniel 6), assembly denied (Hebrews 10). While this list is not exhaustive, the underlying principle is “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).

Loving one another
There is no requirement to become vaccinated in the Bible. The Bible does command us to love one another, as Romans 13:8-10 teaches. Getting a vaccine is a way we can love one another, but does not equate to a mandate. Some Christians are choosing to not show proof of their vaccination to stand in solidarity with those whose conscience does not allow for vaccination. Out of Christian love, they got vaccinated, and out of Christian love they are acting as if they were not vaccinated. The reason is to support people being able to live according to their conscience.

Conscience is important to the Christian
Romans 14 illustrates and helps us navigate matters of conscience. The goal is to build people up and not argue over matters the Bible does not make explicitly clear. In Romans 14 the case was whether to eat meat. We should be willing to give up our rights to help build up those who have a weaker faith, and we should not feel guilty about doing things we feel are right, when the Bible does not give a clear answer. The bottom line is to not do something that would violate your conscience, or force someone to do something that violated their conscience.

Violating our conscience is sinning against God
Romans 14:23 in the ESV states that “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This sums up the argument of how we should act from Romans 12 through 14. Apart from what the Bible says we should or should not do, our conscience is the driver. The phrase “is condemned” is written in an emphatic form in the original language. This means to act against your conscience is to clearly sin against God. The reason is our action does not come from our faith conviction. The last phrase of verse 23 broadens the issue beyond meat, and applies it to all matters of conscience.

~Pastor Ty Woznek, Rev., M.Div, Herald of Christ

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