Dear ES, one of my friends told me "You couldn't catch Coronavirus in South Australia if you tried these days!" Why should I still follow the government restrictions if there is no cases here, so there's no risk? From a worn-out Christian
Dear Worn-out Christian,
Firstly, let me say I understand your frustration! When there seems to be no real risk, it can be difficult to justify following what seems like an arbitrary rule made by the government. How could it really hurt anyone? After all this time stuck at home on my own don’t I deserve to be able to finally enjoy myself and see people?
It can be easy to justify bending the rules to ourselves.
But this is something that God does speak to us about in the bible, and tells us that there are a few reasons we should follow the authorities who are over us: our government. And these reasons are bigger than just following rules for the sake of it, so they are reasons we should listen to.
God’s people on earth have for a long-time experienced life under human authorities. At some points Israel was self-governing, and at times they experienced what it was to live under the authority of other empires which they had been conquered by: the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and Romans. So it is unsurprising that God told them in the bible how his people should relate to human authorities. Often Christians were isolated and persecuted, and unsure of how they should relate to a government who was allowing their oppression and viewed Christians as a kind of cult (I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was oppressed because I couldn’t see more than 10 friends at once!). In one letter to a group of churches in this situation, Peter wrote this:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 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 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 people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:11-17)
Peter also sees that obeying authorities is something we do for the Lord’s sake- and he goes even further in exploring this to view our attitude towards those in authority over us as a witness to those around us, so that we can be good representatives of the gospel- then end goal is for our good deeds to cause others to glorify God. And Peter also outlines the different ways we are to define different relationships: we are to honour human authorities but above them is God who we are to honour with reverent fear. And we are also called to love our fellow Christians and show all people respect. Our relationships with others are important, but is also important for us to not get these relationships disordered, as our ultimate goal in the way we treat all people is to glorify God who is our ultimate authority.
This may raise questions for you: what if the authority we live under denies God, or passes a law to stop us following Jesus. What if our government perpetrates injustices or abuses its power? Luckily in Australia we aren’t in this position, although even here we still see injustice towards minorities and those who are most vulnerable in our society. If we are ever in this position, knowing what to do can be incredibly challenging. But as Christians we also have hope for a future where we will have perfect justice as were live under God’s perfect rule.
There may be times when bending the rules seems harmless- but God calls us to view our government not as busybodies just trying to spoil our fun, but as authorities put in place to serve us and distribute justice. So even if they aren’t perfect at this, our response should be to pray for our leaders to be wise in decision making, and obey them in order to honour God.
Grace & peace,