Last night I had a craving. Rightly or wrongly I just fancied some chocolate. Unable to leave the house due to having symptoms I appealed to the kind nature of the rest of my family (who are out of the 14 day isolation period), and asked if one of them might pop out to get some. “Chocolate is not an essential” was the first reply (debatable, I know). “I have already had my walk of the day” another replied. So I made a suggestion “How about you pick up some bread and the chocolate, we do need bread.” However, I was firmly put in my place when I was reminded that there was a loaf in the freezer!
So, deprived of chocolate, and humbled by my family because of my foolish attempt to ‘bend the rules’, I began thinking about how, as Christians, we should be behaving in these strange times of ‘lockdown.’
Since the restrictions began, we have all been reminded of the rules – over and over. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. In these unprecedented times we are all at home, at the same time, being asked to keep to the same rules. Simple boundaries; only leaving the house for buying essentials, for exercise (once a day) or essential work. Yet over the past few days we have seen that the temptation to bend the rules, even just a little, has been causing upset. The world is watching how we all observe these rules, the police have the unenviable task of trying to ensure we stick to them and the debate over the word “essential” is causing many heated discussions – not just in my house!
Our rebellious, sinful natures mean that sticking to rules is not something that comes easily. From the moment we begin to move we like to test the boundaries. You only have to watch a baby crawl to the edge of the stairs again and again. So, when we are all set the same rules to follow, how as Christians should we be behaving as ‘shining lights’ amongst our families, friends and neighbours.
I was drawn to the words of 1 Peter 2 verses 13-15
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men’
This may not help us with the answer to the question, what counts as essential exercise? But it does allow us to look carefully at the guidelines that are in place and ask ourselves, if we can honestly say we are following them.
Since the guidelines were set in place, there has been a surge in enquiries for puppies from dog rescue centres and bike sales are apparently soaring. People are desperately seeking to find more excuses to leave the house. We have all seen images of people flocking to beauty spots to take a walk and have heard the various debates as to whether they should or shouldn’t. Whilst there aren’t specific time limits set, the government does state “even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household”.
So as a Christian perhaps I should be asking is it okay for me to take a 2 hour walk or should I be following the guidelines and taking a half an hour stroll instead? Should I really be getting in my car and driving to the beach or countryside or should I just take a stroll round the block instead?
These rules are hard, they involve many sacrifices and require us to set boundaries for ourselves and for our children too. We miss social contact, we miss our usual routines, we miss exploring the beauty of God’s creation. However, this is a time when we are to listen to the words of 1 Peter 2 v 15 as the world is watching. I was reminded of this when I spoke to my nephew on Facetime yesterday. He was wearing some binoculars so I asked him “Have you been bird spotting?” To which he replied, “ No, I like looking at the old people who live over the road!” (Yes I did gasp!)
The world watches, they will notice if you disappear for two hours every day for a walk, if you fill your shopping trolley with 48 toilet rolls and they will notice if you have friends and family over, just for a sneaky visit. We need to show them that we do respect authority and ultimately that we are doing our best to love our neighbours by staying home and protecting others and helping the NHS.
Nevertheless, let us not be quick to judge others and not become the righteousness police. Let’s be tough on ourselves and charitable in our assessment of others. We have no idea if the lady with 48 toilet rolls has 12 children or whether the man in the queue, with only Nutella in his hands, is buying an essential item… trust me if your child will only eat Nutella on toast for breakfast then it may count as an essential item!