What Would Jesus Do? or WWJD?, is a favorite expression for Christians. It has become a slogan on t-shirts, coffee mugs, caps, wristbands/bracelets, and so on. But Christians also know that WWJD is more than just a slogan or a catchy acronym: it’s a way of life, a lifestyle, as they say. For, whatever Jesus would do is what His followers (that is, Christians) should do. That is what it means to be a disciple.
Unfortunately, it has been used for all sorts of things that Jesus would likely have never done. In a more recent case, Franklin Graham, preacher and son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, has brought it back into mainstream discussions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. For Franklin Graham, Jesus would endorse the COVID-19 vaccine if He were here. He says as much in a Facebook post from back in March.
To give fair examination to Graham’s words, I’ll quote the statement here from his Facebook post in its entirety:
The internet is full of articles, theories, data, and opinions concerning the COVID-19 vaccines — both positive and negative. There’s a lot out there for you to read. I have been asked my opinion about the vaccine by the media and others. I have even been asked if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for the vaccines. My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say — yes, I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives. In this Scripture passage, Jesus told about a man beaten and wounded, lying on the roadside as religious leaders passed by and didn’t help. But a Samaritan, considered a social outcast of the day, becomes the hero of the story when he stops and cares for the injured man — pouring oil and wine, which were the top medicines of the day, on the man’s wounds. We also know that Jesus went from town to town healing “every disease and sickness.” He came to save life — to offer us eternal life. Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself? Of course not. He is God.
So my own personal opinion is that from what we know, a vaccine can help save lives and prevent suffering. Samaritan’s Purse has operated COVID-19 emergency field hospitals, and we have seen the suffering firsthand. I also have staff and their family members who contracted the virus and spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result — I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu and so many other deadly illnesses— why not for this virus? Since there are different vaccines available, my recommendation is that people do their research, talk to their doctor, and pray about it to determine which vaccine, if any, is right for them. My wife and I have both had the vaccine; and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!Franklin Graham via Facebook
According to the words of Franklin Graham, Jesus would support the COVID-19 vaccines. But would He? I think that Franklin Graham is a bit more optimistic than realistic examination allows.
So with that said, it’s time to approach the issues with Franklin Graham’s statement above.
The parable of the good samaritan and medical care
Franklin Graham says that the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is about medical care. Jesus commends the Samaritan for seeing the man wounded and abandoned, taking him to an inn, and giving the innkeeper money to care for his health. To be sure, Jesus Himself is a healer and He came to earth to cast out sickness and disease and heal the sick. So it’s not surprising that Jesus would commend the Samaritan. The Samaritan was only human and, unlike Jesus, couldn’t cast out the man’s wounds, but the Samaritan is commended for doing what he could do: he could take the man to an inn and pay for his care.
And Jesus would encourage us all to do something along those lines to help someone. If someone has a flat tire, we should be willing to take them to a safe place — even if we can’t buy them new tires. Just because we can’t give someone everything they need isn’t an excuse to give them nothing and leave them in a helpless state.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is certainly a nod and applause for caregivers, doctors, nurses, and those who are in-home healthcare workers. While these humans cannot heal the sick, they can provide food, care, give the sick their proper medications, and look after them. Remember, Jesus has told believers that “whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:31-40). So with that said, even if we can do nothing more but give someone a drink of water, if we’re doing it in the name of Christ, the Lord sees it and will reward us in that Day when we stand before Him.
We should do all we can to help those who are in need. Jesus commends those who see someone helpless and, not knowing them personally, treats them as though they are the husband, wife, sister, brother, or child of the person helping them. When you can see someone as your family that isn’t your family, that’s when you’ll reach out and help. The reality is that, in the kingdom of God, we are all brothers and sisters and family. You can’t truly live out Jesus’s words until you start to see your family as more than just biological kindred. As Jesus Himself told the disciples, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? Here are My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50, NKJV).
We are to help the less fortunate and helpless. And at times, we ourselves are helpless and need others to help us. And whatever kind deed we do out of care for others, Jesus sees it and acknowledges it and smiles upon it. When nurses, doctors, caregivers, and medical staff help others in their sickness by bathing them, giving them their medications, ride patients around while pushing them in their wheelchairs, serve them a plate of food, and help them get dressed, they are “pouring oil and wine,” as did the Good Samaritan. With such sacrifices, God is pleased.
Is the COVId-19 vaccine the oil and wine in The Parable of the good samaritan (luke 10:25-37)?
Is the COVID-19 vaccine the “oil and wine” in Jesus’ Parable of The Good Samaritan? Not in the context, no. We know that in the day of the Parable, vaccines didn’t exist as they do today. Franklin Graham says that oil and wine were the great medicinal resources of the day in the Parable and extends that to vaccines today.
But there’s a problem with this statement. Are vaccines the only medical resource available today? Not exactly. To be sure, vaccines are the only form of medicine that exists right now that is said to effectively fight COVID-19, but there are other medicinal forms on the market that drug makers have yet to tap into: pills, patches, liquids, and even powder solutions for drinks or food. For example, those who take birth control need not take the vaccine because there are patches and pills if they so desire them.
Perhaps oil and wine were all that were available in the day of the Parable, but technology has afforded us many more options now than those that existed over 2,000 years ago.
Is it necessary to receive the covid-19 vaccine? Drug makers should make alternative forms of covid-fighting drugs
If someone wants to take a cold and flu medication, there are pills to take. It isn’t necessary to receive the flu vaccine if a person can take TamiFlu or Tylenol Cold and Flu products, for example. With COVID-19, we’ve discovered that, aside from the vaccine, there is a COVID cocktail from Regeneron that one can drink.
As I’ve said before, the product itself is a drinking dilemma for those who partake of it, but it’s an alternate solution from a vaccine. In the minds of conservative Christians, though, both cocktail and vaccine are morally wrong because of their ties to cells grown from original cells of an aborted fetus. Though aborted fetal cells are not in the Regeneron drink, the drink itself has been tested on cloned fetal cells from an aborted fetus.
So with that said, there are vaccines that have patches, pills, and power solutions as alternative forms of medicine. When it comes to COVID-19, however, a vaccine is all we have. Vaccine maker Pfizer has a COVID-fighting oral pill in the pipeline that it looks to release on the market as soon as possible. It will be nice to see this pill released so that those who have valid moral objections to the COVID-19 vaccine can still receive some sort of medical help in the fight against this terrible virus.
Franklin Graham is implicitly saying that the COVID-19 vaccine is the best of science and health to fight this virus, but it comes with its own set of drawbacks. All medicines do. No medicine lacks a lethal nature if taken in too high a dose, but most medications on the market don’t involve an injection that consists of medicine and a COVID-causing virus as the COVID-19 vaccine does. For all its technological genius, and for all that it does better than traditional vector vaccines (it reduces the amount and quantity of virus exposure), it still poses a moral dilemma for a number of Christians who aren’t opposed to medicine per se, just vaccines as the go-to medicinal form. These same Christians wouldn’t mind submitting to a pill, patch, or even powder solution.
Another thing worth noting is that any solutions tested on cell lines containing cloned cells from aborted fetuses will continue to be a strong moral objection for conservative Christians. Their objection is valid, even as some Christians continue to push the life-saving benefits of vaccines and medicines. It goes back to what I’ve said before: why should millions of lives be saved at the expense of an innocent child whose life was taken, a child who had no say in his or her demise or donation to science? Conservative Christians would say that anyone who takes life out of a child has committed murder. To them, abortion and murder are synonymous.
So with that said, there’s little certainty that Jesus would support the COVID-19 vaccine. Jesus would support COVID-19-fighting medications. A vaccine is a medication, to be sure. But the vaccine itself has some moral objection that directly contradicts Scripture.
And that makes it a huge leap or stretch in logic for someone like Franklin Graham to assert with confidence that Jesus would support it.
putting it all together
Jesus would support quality medical care. He would support the efforts of caregivers, doctors, nurses, and medical personnel giving support to the sick and ill among us. Jesus would support medicines that are tested and approved that help patients heal and enhance their quality of life (even if it’s impossible to enhance the quantity of life). Jesus would even support quarantining, seeing that quarantining was endorsed in the Old Testament (see Numbers 5:1-4).
But would Jesus support the COVID-19 vaccine? That’s a huge stretch. The reason? The morally problematic nature of the vaccine itself. The vaccine is a medicine that includes a COVID-causing virus (per the CDC’s own website) in order to create protection against that which the vaccine exposes you to. In other words, you’re exposed to the virus to prevent full-blown virus exposure later on. As the CDC says on its website, “mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives out our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus.” As for traditional, vector vaccines, they “contain a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the shell of the modified virus, there is material from the virus that causes COVID-19.”
The exposure is less with a vaccine than COVID-19 itself, but the risk is still the same: you can die if you get COVID-19, and you can die if the vaccine doesn’t perform as it should. Limited exposure with the same death risk isn’t much of an improvement, though, no matter how great the marketing tells us it is.
Franklin Graham has good intentions, I’m sure. I believe that everyone deserves to be heard. I understand that, as a preacher and a child of the late Rev. Billy Graham, he wants to have an impact on this generation. He wants to encourage good science and proper health because of the bad reputations some conservative Christians have when it comes to medicine and health. Preachers and conservative Christians have had a bad reputation in the past as being anti-science, anti-medicine, and anti-health. Graham doesn’t want to reinforce that negative stereotype.
But using Jesus to make the case for it is a stretch. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with taking medications that are available to us to get better, but when those medications put our lives at risk, the decision to take or not take them isn’t as simple as “Jesus supports it, you should, too.”
To make the claim that Jesus supports the COVID-19 vaccine is a stretch because of the way the vaccine itself is made. It consists of a medicine that includes a virus. It is a virus in the inner shell that is wrapped with medication around it. The reason why the vaccine has to “shell in” the virus is because the body will try to remove it if it detects it — and that works against the reason for the vaccine in the first place.
But placing a virus in your body to create a strong immune response against that virus is tantamount to lighting your finger on fire with a lighter in order to create a strong skin response to fire — or drinking a poisonous drink in order to test your resistance to poison. Even if one’s decision to get vaccinated is for goodwill and good intentions, the motive doesn’t matter: either way, you still have a death risk. Good intentions cannot physically harm you, but they can’t keep you alive either if something goes wrong with the body due to medicinal side effects.
In Luke 4, Jesus was told to throw Himself off the Temple roof in order to prove that He had divine protection. Jesus wasn’t told, “End your life”; rather, He was told to do this sinister thing to prove that God was with Him, that He had security, safety, and ultimate protection.
Conservative Christians have told me in the midst of all the COVID-19 coverage that they feel compelled to, metaphorically speaking, “throw their lives to the wind” in order to get vaccinated and “prove” that they are doing everything to combat COVID, to prove that they are doing everything possible to remain in and promote good health. Wearing face masks, hand washing, and social distancing, they’ve said, aren’t considered to be enough. The ultimate demonstration of love for their fellow man is to get vaccinated — this is the message being constantly thrown at them time and time again.
Unfortunately, though I have great respect for Franklin Graham and his good intentions, I respectfully disagree with his conclusion. It’s a sad reality that one of the “oil and wine” resources of our time consists of a virus putting you at risk to protect you from risk. Life on earth should not be gained by placing one’s life at risk. That doesn’t mean that I don’t honor the life-saving benefits of vaccines. It just means that I see the good in the COVID-19 vaccine while seeing the bad, too. My grandmother used to always say that, “there’s some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us.” The same holds true for the COVID-19 vaccine: there’s some good in the worst of it and some bad in the best of it.
And this is why I think vaccine makers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca shouldn’t become so complacent in making vaccines only. I would recommend that they seek other treatments (pills, patches, liquids, and powders) that will also help the vaccine-hesitant combat COVID-19. Few today (if next to none) are ostracized and shamed because they refuse the flu vaccine; I pray we get to a day with the fight against COVID where alternative medicinal forms are available, where conservative Christians are not shamed and humiliated because they cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine with a good conscience.