It has been a worrying week! At one point, we were concerned that we might be required to close the church doors once again to comply with tightening restrictions. We give thanks that this has not turned out to be the case. We are able, in fact, to continue as we are. Our building and our practices are compliant with current Government rules and national church guidelines.
These events have reminded us, however, of how precarious the situation remains. As numbers of infections rise, the risk of further restrictions is ever present. How might we, as Christians, respond distinctively to this?
The answer is surely that we need to balance our duties with care. We have a duty to God to remain faithful in prayer and worship in whatever ways remain open to us. We have a duty to one another and our wider community to regard the wellbeing of others as just as precious as our own. And we have a duty, as citizens of this country, to abide by the law.
I spoke of balance, but in fact these duties must be attended to in broadly that order of priority. Our first duty is to God, to love God (who loves us perfectly and eternally) with every fibre of our being. Because of that, we also have a duty to other people, to love them as ourselves. We cannot love God without loving our neighbour, because God loves our neighbour quite as much as God loves us! Finally, we have a duty to our society since that, too, is generally what God requires.
But not always. Sometimes Christians are called to stand up against unjust regimes in ways that set them on a direct collision course with those in power. Civil disobedience is sometimes both necessary and godly.
Earlier this week I faced up in my heart to the question of what I would do if the Government and national church instructed me to close the church doors a second time. Before I reached a clear answer the immediate threat receded. But I did reach a clearer conviction that love of God and of neighbour take precedence over obedience to those in power. I believe that we have, so far, responded to the current crisis in a way that recognises that. May it be our shared prayer that we continue to do so, and may God bless you all,