A significant conversation at the start of the coronavirus was about the distinction between seeking to manage the virus and seeking to suppress the virus. Along with most other governments, the UK took the suppression route because of the expected higher death tolls from management only,]
It is therefore important to think carefully about what suppression entails. When you suppress something you try to hold it down for as long as possible. The problem is that when the thing is released then it bounces back up again. Dan Strange uses the image of a child with a beach ball, he tries to push it under the water but as soon as he lets go it bounces up again with a splash.
This is why governments are nervous about what happens after lockdown. They hope that the suppression has lasted long enough to take us to the stage where the virus is naturally abating and closer to a time when treatments and vaccines are available. If not, then as soon as lockdown ends, the virus spikes again. At the same time, they have been suppressing other thing because lockdown is a blunt instrument.
So, they will be hoping to see the economy bounce back up in a V-shaped recovery. There is one problem with this, that’s that holding someone or something down by force may damage it. So whils ton one level, you might reasonable expect a V-shaped recovery, after all we should still need to buy all those things we had to postpone before (although maybe we will all be experts at cutting our wn hair). There is though the risk that the lockdown has caused hidden damage to the economy.
The other thing that has been suppressed has been human social interaction. We need community, there is something in us that longs for gathering, connection, congregation. So, what are the implications for a suppressed community. Well at its most benign, we might see all the huggers rushing to throw their arms around everyone. However, there is also the potential for danger, hot summer’s nights and discontented youth gathering could be a recipe for disaster.
Again, you can see why the Government would want to phase in an exit from lockdown. In fact, given the expectation is for an extended period of restrictions, you can see why they would want to phase in other things like return to school. It suddenly makes sense to start to bring in small groups at a time so that children can learn how to conduct themselves in a socially distanced school for example.
Now here’s the thing. We are talking about all the problems with suppression. It may be the only option available to us, it may be necessary but in many respects it is flawed. Yet, we are constantly at it in the rest of our lives. We are forever trying to suppress things.
- Sometimes we attempt to suppress emotions, we suppress the hurt we have experienced deep inside where it turns into bitterness eating away at us and then suddenly one day rises to the surface out of control.
- We often try to deal with sin and bad habits by suppressing them. That’s how legalism works. I try to suppress an addictive temptation by ignoring it, by finding distractions, by keeping busy. Yet what I really need is the work of the Spirit to cut that thing out. You see, as soon as the constraints are off, the sin bursts into life again.
- This can also happen corporately in the church, we can think that a particular problem, a mark of unhealthy church life such as poor teaching or unhelpful beliefs and practices has gone, when In fact it has only been supressed. The pastor goes on sabbatical, retires or moves on to a new place and suddenly the church reverts back to its old ways.
It is helpful to be alert to the risk here and to learn to discern what is really going on. Prayer is essential. We need a real work of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we are to see more than temporary suppression.
Paul in Romans 1:18 identifies another way in which we suppress things.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
God clearly reveals to us who he is, his character, his goodness, love and sovereignty. He reveals to us how we should live in response to him. He reveals the beauty, wonder and grace of the Gospel. But humans choose instead to suppress this truth by living in rebellion against God. We think that if we ignore what God is saying, it will go away.
But you can no more suppress the truth than you can that inflatable ball on the beach.
Truth will out. God’s Word will keep speaking to us and challenging us. This is why Paul says that we are without excuse. God will not be silenced.
This should challenge us if we are still seeking to suppress the truth. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ then don’t keep trying to suppress the truth. Don’t try to ignore the Holy Spirit as he prods at your conscience. Respond to the truth of the Gospel and put your trust in Jesus.
This should be an encouragement to believers. Even when it feels like no-one is listening as we share the good news, we know that the truth cannot be suppressed. People will hear and respond to the Gospel.
 In fact it is with specific reference to Romans 1 that Dan Strange uses that illustration