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COVID vaccine and faith in Jesus

Vaccine for senior man

The world rejoiced when pharmaceutical companies announced the shipment of the COVID vaccine. Rev. Glenn Wagner celebrates and turns his attention to other great afflictions.


GLENN M. WAGNER

Retired pastor, Michigan Conference 

Have you heard the good news?

A vaccine produced by Pfizer Pharmaceutical in Kalamazoo, MI that has been tested and proven to be 95% effective in inoculation against the deadly coronavirus is being distributed. A second vaccine produced by Moderna in Norwood, MS, is also being administered. Great Britain has further approved a third vaccine by Oxford-AstraZeneca for distribution in the United Kingdom.

Hopes are being raised globally that this deadly nightmare of a pandemic that threatens all of humanity and that has already infected 89,690,533 people worldwide, claiming 1.926,624 million global casualties as of 1/11/2020, might soon be under control. In the United States, the numbers are 22,192,842 infected and 372,508 deaths as of 1/11/2020. Researchers estimate that as much as 10% of the world’s population has been infected by this virus and 15% of Americans. Reporting from Great Britain on the first woman in the world to receive the approved vaccine brought cheers and tears of joy. Coverage of the first semi-load of vaccine leaving Pfizer for delivery was met with a similar global ovation. 

Many of us have had our normal routines disrupted significantly for this past year. Even though news of this long-anticipated vaccination roll-out is also being tempered by warnings of potential supply and funding shortages and by possible side-effects for some persons with allergies, a clear sign of hope and news that this nightmare may be over someday is certainly GREAT NEWS! I identify with the TV host who proclaimed that watching the first vaccine delivered was the first time he ever wept tears of genuine joy over watching a total stranger receive a shot on television.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the scientists, researchers, physicians, and other health care workers who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively to achieve this important breakthrough. Thank you also to all those who have volunteered as human test cases for vaccines in development. We also need to thank businesses and citizens who have sacrificed profits and plans for the greater good to promote public safety. This battle is not yet over, and we need to continue to exercise wisdom and commitment, but I want to remember this moment in history and celebrate this accomplishment.

I also pray that the human family will continue to work collaboratively on vaccine equivalents for the other great afflictions that threaten our human family. Sadly the coronavirus is not the only deadly threat to global health.

Systemic racism has captured our attention in 2020 as protests erupted across our country in response to police killings of unarmed black civilians. In November of 2020, the BBC highlighted an FBI report that racially motivated hate crimes in the United States are the highest in a decade resulting in 7,314 incidents. The horrific recent violence at our United States Capitol, which tragically resulted in five deaths, has received public condemnation. Should it not be a priority for followers of Jesus to work for a world where white supremacy finds no place in our churches, homes, streets, and hearts?

Nine million people die in the world each year from hunger, according to the United Nations.

The National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health and estimate 606,502 persons will die this year in the United States from cancer.

The United Nations estimates that we have about a decade to reverse the life-threatening effects of climate change.

The Washington Post reports that 1 in every 8 adults in our country is suffering from alcoholism. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the social cost of alcoholism in America is $249 billion or $2.05 for every drink served. The National Institutes for Health estimated in October of 2020 that 95,000 persons die in the US each year due to alcohol.

There were 612 mass shooting events in the United States in 2020. A mass shooting event is defined as one where more than four people have been shot. 43,448 persons were killed by gun violence in our country in 2020. Sadly, as of January 11, 2021, there have already been 1,219 deaths in the United States because of gun violence this New Year.

Opioids killed 72,000 Americans in 2019, and the numbers increased by 13% in the first half of 2020.

In 2017 there were 862,320 abortions in America. Are there ways we can preserve a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body yet further reduce that number? Can we reduce domestic violence, do a better job with sex education, and encourage people to recognize their sexuality as a gift from God and a great personal and social responsibility?

We can all celebrate this historical moment of break-through vaccines to help control this awful coronavirus pandemic. I pray we will also continue to diligently work on developing vaccine equivalents for all of these other deadly scourges that afflict the human community.

I believe that a personal decision to love and follow Jesus as a directional guide for life can, like a miracle vaccine, help us inhibit many of the pandemic-like afflictions plaguing our planet. This commitment gets supported when we join together in community with other like-minded persons and reinforce our decision with the investment of our time and in forming personal habits. 

People who love Jesus embrace peaceful means of conflict resolution. They honor human sexuality as a gift. They exercise responsible stewardship of resources. Christian disciples cultivate healthy relationships and work to care for the planet and our future. Christians seek to build bridges of cooperation and understanding across the walls that divide us. People who say “Yes” to Jesus as Lord often find the strength to say “No” to destructive temptations. Followers of Jesus give from their resources in purposeful ways for the common good.

Like vaccinated portions of the population, believers in Jesus are sources of hope. We need to remember that just because a person has received a vaccination that can protect them against contracting the coronavirus does not mean that the danger of the virus being spread to others who have not been vaccinated has passed. In a similar way, our potential for sin persists even in the lives of committed Christians.

Aware of the mortal danger of the coronavirus pandemic, many people that I know have responsibly adopted safe practices to prevent the deadly spread of the disease. We all look forward to the day when receiving the new vaccine can give us greater ability to resume an active community life.

I remain grateful every day that loving Jesus also helps me to face the many deadly maladies in our world with purpose and hope and renewed opportunity each day to love effectively. 

Adapting lyrics from the recent hit musical, “Hamilton,” if we inhibit sin by our greater love for Jesus, We are “not throwing away our shot!” 

And in the midst of this pandemic, we have new reason to hope that the right shot multiplied and shared will save lives.