Rules, rules, rules

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13.34


"Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men" is the dictum attributed to First World War fighter ace Harry Day. In the Second World War, Douglas Bader, another pilot who rose to fame because of his exploits in the air (despite losing both his legs), said something similar: "Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that. That's nonsense. Make up your mind, you'll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible."


One can imagine mavericks like our own Prime Minister and his soon-to-be former colleague over the pond rejoicing in such bullish sentiments. You might even be silently applauding yourself! But where do they sit in regard to the current situation regarding Coronavirus and, ultimately, in terms of living faithfully as disciples of Jesus? Because Jesus is another famous iconoclast!


The principle at stake is where to draw the line between blind obedience and common sense? On the news this morning, more debate about the plight of Dementia victims in care homes and whether it is right to deny them access to loved ones for the sake of safety - of staff and other residents, as well as their own and that of their loved ones? One might extend the dilemma to include the plight of nursery and school children and students, employees and entrepreneurs, artists and worshippers. Are we correct in our slavish adherence to government pronouncements? Can flouting those expert-imposed rules ever be justified?


Jesus' "new commandment" makes love for others the supreme yardstick and goal of community life. That is not always easily applied to the complexities of everyday decision-making. But it does mark a crucial distinction between doing or not doing something because it suits us and doing or not doing something because it is in the better interests of others - even when it is inconvenient or frustrating for ourselves. Jesus never allowed the disapproval of the Jewish authorities to thwart his ministry, the apostles did not let the persecution of the Romans prevent them from spreading the Gospel. Today more Christians than ever before are preferring persecution to the point of death to the easier option of denying their faith.


May we be worthy of their example in our own faithful response to the call of Christ and the needs of the world in this Covid bubble we find ourselves in - together.

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