The Wall Street Journal writer William A. Galston explained (6/8/21) concerning the gap in Republican voters not being vaccinated for COVID as much as Democratic voters, “They understand freedom as being left alone, to make their own choices, and they resent being told what to do.” Well, maybe that’s freedom, but it isn’t community. And in the Bible, community precedes individual freedom for both Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament.
For instance, regarding Israel, the First of the Ten Commandments that God gave the nation through Moses says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20.3; Deuteronomy 5.7). So, the Israelites did not have the freedom to worship other gods, of which there were many since the nations all around Israel worshipped many various gods. If any Israelite did worship another god, the penalty was as harsh as it gets: “you shall surely kill them; . . . Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD [Heb. YHWH; see Exodus 3.15] your God” (Deuteronomy 13.9-10).
Does anyone think Yahweh [YHWH], the God of Israel, was a monster in imposing this restricting commandment upon a person’s freedom? God had every right to do so. The above text continues concerning God, “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 13.10). So, they were indebted to him. What would be the result? God says, “Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and never again do any such wickedness” (v. 11).
If the whole community of Israel would have worshipped other gods or just one other god, Yahweh, the god of Israel, would have destroyed the entire nation. Therefore, in ancient Israel, community often took precedence over freedom. And the same was true of other activities. For instance, an Israelite did not have freedom to prophesy willy nilly and say Yahweh had spoken thus, or they portend something that happens and they then say, “Let us follow other gods . . . and serve them” (Deuteronomy 13.1-2), that false prophet “shall be put to death for having spoken treason against the LORD [Heb. YHWH] your God” (v. 5). Again, God immediately provides his reasoning, “who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house slavery.”
The rule to go by is this, what is best for the community? Because Yahweh had redeemed Israel from slavery, the nation was indebted to him. He was theirs. So, do what he says. In fact, when God was about to give the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, he said to Moses concerning Israel, “If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5.29). So, it would go well with them if they would do what was best for the community and not just go and do anything that any individual wishes to do in supposedly exercising their freedom.
Now, I’m not saying there is a direct relationship between these commandments of God to the nation of Israel and each American getting vaccinated for COVID-19, but I think there is some similarity. Besides self-protection, to get vaccinated is to protect community. If a non-vaccinated person contracts COVID-19 and dies, that’s only one person who dies; whereas that non-vaccinated person infected with COVID-19 could transmit the deadly disease to hundreds of people who could then die.
That’s community. As I’ve said before (if people don’t have health issues that advise against it) to be vaccinated for this virus is to do as Torah says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19.18), and Jesus taught, “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7.12). For both Israel and the church, it is the same: community precedes individual freedom. And if people “resent being told what to do,” as Galton says of many Republican non-vaxxers, can they be Christian and do that? Is that not disobeying Jesus as Lord, who tells his people to care for others?