the gospel of mRNA

*Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, or an expert in church leadership. These are just some thoughts I have as I learn about a technology involved in the new vaccines many of us hope toward. I know there are aspects of it all that ruin or limit the analogy, but I still enjoyed connecting the dots.

Ephesians 4:12, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the news lately, and feeling a bit like you’re being forced to learn High School science all over again. I patted myself on the back for remembering that “RNA” stood for “Ribonucleic acid”, although I still had no idea what that meant. There are a few different kinds of RNA, one of which is becoming especially popular these days – the “mRNA”, or “Messenger RNA”. To put it most simply, mRNA “carries genetic codes from the DNA in the nucleus to ribosomes, the sites of protein translation in the cytoplasm”.

To put it overly simply – the vaccines many of us have had, inject dead samples of a virus, which our body uses as a learning moment to create antibodies and make us more immune to such a virus in the future. Scientists could try this approach with the COVID-19 (and some have), but it would take a long time to grow enough viable virus cells (often in chicken eggs), kill and sterilize, and prepare for an effective vaccine.

But over the past 30 years, some scientists have begun to suggest that we could synthetically manufacture “Messenger RNA” that would perform a similar function. “When a patient is injected with mRNA in a vaccine, their cells use the information in that mRNA to create a protein: in this case, a version of the spike protein from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The immune system recognizes that protein as a signal to produce antibodies and immune cells.”

So here’s the summary: It sends a message by its’ very existence, and teaches cells how to replicate defenses for the infection, without even having to experience the infection fully itself.

So how does all of this reflect the “good news” of Jesus? Probably in many ways, but here’s one.

When someone is injected with a batch of the mRNA, we don’t have to make sure the mRNA gets into every single cell or area of our body. We also don’t have to worry about language differences. Just a small amount sends the message that becomes shared and communicated broadly. From that point forward (for a time at least), all newly created proteins will be made with the built-in immunity.

This is something we see reflected in our churches, our homes, and in the world of missions on a regular basis. It’s not important for us to try and get ourselves into every area of a church, or every area of a given mission field. It’s most important for us to be those who know the heart of God in ways that invite others to not only be transformed by it – but that they would become invitational in nature as well. As some have put it – to be disciples to make disciples who make disciples…

Here in Hungary, this means regularly asking ourselves “Am I trying to be the ribosome that makes all the proteins, or am I being the “Messenger RNA” that helps lead others to continue spreading the living message of Jesus?” The first means I have to make sure I get everywhere, do everything, and stay in control. The second means I offer myself faithfully where I’ve been injected, and trust in the living body of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to replicate what is helpful and redemptive to continue proclaiming New Creation Life.

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