Quick get up, get out”
“Who do you think you are coming telling me what to do?”
“No, you need to, you are in danger”
“The house is on fire”
“Are you telling my sister to get out too”
“Yes – but you need to come quickly “
“Oh I think I am able to look after myself. I can make responsible decisions about my safety, I won’t go near the fire. If it is just me who stays in then we should be okay.”
It sounds ludicrous in that context doesn’t it? Yet, there is a natural human tendency to think that rules and commands don’t really apply to us. I don’t know how you feel about the measures the government have been taking to combat Coronavirus. I do know however that very few people ike being made to stay in their houses and only come out for essential exercise, shopping and medical needs. Having your freedom curtailed is not an enjoyable thing.
Yet here we are, this is the situation and the reaction has been fascinating. The police have been visible in places they weren’t seen before (I see our local police in Smethwick most days, sometimes several times). They’ve been posting images of people heading out into the countryside with requests to stop doing so. This has drawn complaints from people like George Osborne as well as lots of twitter comments to the effect of “The police are targeting the wrong people. These ones aren’t doing any harm.”
My first reaction was “Where were those complaining when the police were stopping and searching black kids in London?” Where were they when men from Asian backgrounds were being singled out at airports because of their racial profile? And for those from a secular background, “where were you when elderly street preachers were being arrested, driven miles away and then left to find their own way home?”
Ah, but that is different isn’t it? How so? Is the problem that the police are overstepping their powers or is it that they are picking on the wrong people. I even read one comment where the person said it was good that people were driving off to the Peak District because if they did their exercise in the cities, they would have to mingle with people from tower blocks (yes you heard me right).
The thing is, in a crisis, our natural characteristics don’t really change, rather they just become more exaggerated. It’s why one of the skills and personality tests we used to use in industry measured responses in a normal situation and under pressure -because under pressure you are less able to hide who you are.
So, this belief that rules are for some – the bad people whilst they don’t apply to you and me -the good people isn’t something new. Ask any teacher and they will be able to tell you about the phone calls and emails they get demanding to know why the parent’s child has been punished. An exception should have been made for their exceptionally talented and well behaved child. Their brilliant prodigy doesn’t belong in the set they’ve been placed in either. The exam results should be ignored in that case.
It’s actually in built into each of us isn’t it. If we are honest, we like to think the rules don’t apply to us. Why do famous pastors fall? Why is it that they often fall in the very areas they warn others about? The answer is because they think they are above the warnings, so they don’t need to follow the guidelines.
Here’s the thing, when we decide that it is one rule for us, one for others then as well as potentially putting lives at risk in the specific example of coronavirus lockdown but we are also making a statement about ourselves. It’s self-righteousness isn’t it? I justify my own actions
- If only I do it, I’m okay
- I’ve got a justifiable reason
- I’m different to everyone else
- I’m not actually hurting anyone
- I deserve it.
- I don’t like the way/tone in which it has been put
- I don’t see why the person making the law should have the authority to tell me what to do.
At this point, there are bigger issues than just compliance with lockdown rules. We are describing a problem with human nature. I don’t know whether hikers in the Peak district or sunbathers on Newquay beach are really excused or justified. I have my opinion but maybe they are right on this. What I do know, is that when it comes to justifying myself to God, claiming that I am the exception to the rule, thinking I deserve to do things my way, then my case simply doesn’t stand up. I am without excuse and deserve divine justice.
However, there is someone who the judgement shouldn’t apply to. Jesus is the one who has every right to say that the curse and penalty of sin should not apply to him. He is good and kind, just and loving. He is without sin. Yet Jesus willingly submitted to judgement that should not have applied to him. “In my place condemned he stood.”
The good news is that because Jesus allowed judgement to be applied to him, because he allowed death to apply to him, so undeserved forgiveness, love, mercy and life are applied to us.