25th September 2020
According to an article in The Observer, the race for a Covid-19 vaccine is getting dirty. It started well. It took only ten days for the Chinese to publish the genome sequence for the virus. But before long there were stories of tensions between team members, accusations that some countries were hacking into the research of other countries, cases of biotech executives cashing in on unapproved vaccines, reports that scientists were under pressure to speed up their research for political and economic reasons, tales of cutting corners in the race to be first, fears that when a vaccine is available some will refuse to have it.
Then there’s the question of who gets the vaccine. One expert says, “People are waking up to the fact vaccines will not be there for all.” Some countries are already trying to corner supplies for their own people, with the World Health Organisation warning of “vaccine nationalism.” One global health expert gives this sober verdict: “vaccines will eventually reach most populations, but only after powerful countries have protected themselves.”
It’s a familiar story. Alongside the intellectual brilliance, selfless co-operation and sheer hard work that human beings are capable of, there’s a murkier story of jealousy, spying, greed, self-interest and fear. It’s hard enough to find a vaccine for Covid-19. It seems even harder to find a vaccine for the human condition – and we’ve had thousands and thousands of years to do so.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The prophet Jeremiah observed: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” And Jesus warned: “it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come” – including theft, greed, malice, deceit, envy, slander and arrogance.
We shouldn’t be surprised, but nor should we be cynical. There is hope. We may not be able to change the human heart, but what is impossible for us is not impossible with God. And he has promised to change us. Through the prophet Ezekiel he makes this promise: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you … I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees.” And that’s what he does when we come to Jesus for forgiveness. We are forgiven for living to please ourselves, and we are enabled to live to please God.
Lord, give us safe vaccines for Covid-19, quickly and for everyone. And give us a new heart; give us your Spirit. Amen.