Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


7 Oct 2021, 11:15 a.m.

A church pastor in America caused something of a media storm recently when he argued against people using "religious exemption" to avoid getting vaccinated or wearing a mask.

Quite rightly, he argued that true Christians will always put the needs of others above their own, although that did not go down well with some of his readers.

We don’t have the same sort of religious exemptions in the UK as they do in America, but the same principles apply.

Those of us who claim to be Christians are called to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. So, when we are thinking about whether to wear a mask or be vaccinated, we should be thinking less about our personal freedom and more about what is good for other people, and especially those whose age or health makes them especially vulnerable to Covid-19.

St Paul wrote: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. 

"Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

To those who protested, saying that Jesus came to set us free, he wrote: "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

"For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself."

Jesus himself called on his followers to act in the interests of the vulnerable: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

In a free country, we all have the right to refuse the vaccine or to go mask-free except where the law requires it, but if we are trying to live our lives as Christians we will not do so.

Loving our neighbours means recognising that being vaccinated and wearing a mask is about protecting others, and especially about keeping the vulnerable safe. Quite literally, it’s about sacrificing a bit of our freedom to save other people’s lives.