The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:9-13 NRSV
The present pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus is not the first one the Christian church has had to deal with. Bubonic plague, smallpox, measles and polio have all worked their way through the human population.
A Christian theologian writes to another pastor about the bubonic plague. It is amazing how contemporary the writing sounds for our present situation. I am going to share a part of it with you here:
“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.
If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually, that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.
No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?” Written by Martin Luther in Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II.
Getting vaccinated is using intelligence and medicine both for ourselves and our neighbors. If we are not vaccinated we are tempting God and are guilty of all that Luther says above. Go to your doctor or local pharmacy and get vaccinated. It is free. How often can you get something that is free that will do you and others so much good? Smallpox, measles and polio all have vaccines that we don’t think twice about getting because we know it is better to get the vaccine than the disease. The benefits outweigh the risks. Getting the vaccine for COVID-19 is the same.
We are not done with this pandemic yet. If we don’t get the variants under control we could have to go back to shutting everything down again. Let’s work together and get over this. If you are vaccinated, you may share this with people you know who aren’t vaccinated.
Dean Oelfke is the pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Mora.