To live as a Christian is to live in freedom. The apostle Paul is famous for his statement in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. Likewise, Peter says simply “Live as free people” (1 Peter 2:16).
However, our land that the Prime Minister likes to be known as a Land of Liberty has now become, as one journalist put it, the Kingdom of Captivity, due to Covid-19. How, then, do we feel during this Coronavirus outbreak when our movement has been restricted and our liberty has been curtailed? How do we feel about our inability to meet for worship or even to meet our neighbour? Do we feel our rights have been infringed? Do we react by saying “I’m not going to obey that rule” or “No-one is going to tell me what to do”? How should a Christian behave?
For a Christian the starting point is not liberty but Lordship. Who is Lord of my life? In Philippians 2 Paul gives us another of his famous phrases “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Lordship means submission; it means authority; it means obedience. But in the case of Jesus the Lordship is intertwined with love. Our obedience is voluntary because we love Christ. Our submission is willing because we know we submit to the one who loves us and knows what is best.
So, what does voluntary submission and willing obedience look like during this health crisis? 1 Peter gives us our answer – 3 verses before he says “Live as free people” Peter also says “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors who are sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13-14). It is absolutely and abundantly clear that we are told to submit to our government. So, if the government says worship needs to cease in church buildings for the moment, then we are duty bound to respect this. Likewise if the governing authority says we can only leave our homes if it is essential, or for our daily outing of exercise, we should not flout such rules that are put in place for our benefit and for the sake of our nation and in order to save many lives.
We do this because we recognise the Lordship of Jesus above everything else. It is also a sign of our trust in Christ that he can and will use the authority and government he has put in place to bring about his purposes and his salvation in our land. So, not only do we submit to the government we also pray for it too; Paul again “ I urge, then first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority…this is good and pleases God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Let us be willing to submit to the guidance and rules put in place during this crisis. Willing because we love Christ. Willing because we submit to him as well as the government. Willing because we care about our neighbour. Willing because it is right.