Lockdown and Churches in Scotland

The Bible makes it clear that Christians are to be law-abiding citizens.  But as Christians, we are supposed to obey the Bible as well.

We also believe that there are realms where the civic authority is appropriately using its power, and areas where the government should not intrude.  For Christians, as Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon continue their coronavirus lock-downs, this is becoming more and more problematic.

As we have now apparently entered “Phase One” of the Scottish government’s plan, here are some of the questions that really should be answered, if the government wishes to retain the respect of Christians.

“PHASE ONE” QUESTIONS

I.a) Is it legal to sunbathe or have a picnic in the town park and maintain social distancing?

I.b) Is it then legal to have a picnic on church grounds and maintain SD?

I.c) Is it then legal for multiple families to have picnics on church grounds and maintain SD?

I.d) Would legal picnics become illegal if someone sang a hymn, or read Scripture, or prayed, or preached?

I.e) Does the government think sunbathing is more important than worship?

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II.a) If it is safe to drive to a takeaway, why is it unsafe to drive to a church building?

II.b) Is it safer to take food prepared by someone else through your car window, or to take a sermon through it?

II.c) Are not drive-in services where all stay in their car safer than many things now permitted?

II.d) Does the government think fish suppers are more important than worship?

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III.a) Is it safer to go inside a garden centre to pay, or to attend an outdoor (or drive-in) church service?

III.b) Flowers are good, but does the government think flowers are more important than worship?

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IV.a) Is public transport safer than an outdoor or drive-in church service?

IV.b) Are people allowed to decide whether or not the risks of public transport are more important than the benefits?

IV.c) Why are people not allowed to decide whether the risks of an outdoor worship service are more important than the benefits?

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V. What gives the government any moral right to make those value judgments for everyone as to what is more important?

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VI. Is there anyone for whom worship is important included among the scientists or politicians advising the government?

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VII. a) Does the ECHR guarantee freedom of religion?

VII. b) Is there any evidence that it is “necessary for public health” to prohibit outdoor or drive-in services?

VII. c) How many people around the world have caught Covid-19 at an outdoor or drive-in church service?

VII. d) Does the Scottish government really have sufficient evidence to blow away ECHR Article 9?

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VIII. Does it at all bother anyone in government that Russia currently has more religious freedom than Scotland?

“PHASE TWO” QUESTIONS

I. If it will be safe to enter betting shops with social distancing, why no church services with SD?

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II. If pubs can reopen with outdoor seating, can churches have outdoor services?

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III. If professional sport (some involving close physical contact) can resume, why not church services with distancing?

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IV.a) Does the government think gambling, alcohol, and professional sport are more important than worship?

IV. What gives the government any moral right to make those value judgments for everyone?

“PHASE THREE” QUESTIONS

I.a) What if we never get to Phase Three and the virus is never “suppressed”?  Will the worship ban be permanent?

I.b) Can the government guarantee a vaccine or an effective cure is coming?

I.c) If there is no guarantee of virus suppression, why are freedoms (religious and otherwise) being taken away until it arrives?

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II.a) Does the “test and protect” program mean anyone identified as a “contact” by a new Covid-19 victim must self-isolate?

II.b) How can churches guard against malicious attacks by falsely identifying ministers as “contacts”?

II.c) Does the government really believe no one would falsely name ministers of religion as “contacts”?

II.d) Will church ministers have the right to know who has named them so they can confirm or deny contact?

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III.a) If we never get to Phase Four (virus no longer “a significant issue”), how intrusive do you intend to be in church life?

III.b) Is smoking “a significant issue” for health in Scotland?  Alcohol and drug abuse?  Obesity?

III.c) Why remove religious freedom over Covid-19 when government takes no drastic action over other “significant issues”?

“PHASE FOUR” QUESTIONS

I.a) If we do get to this point, will Phase Four ever end?

I.b) Is the government asserting a permanent right to dictate church practices?

I. c) How is any restriction at all, in Phase Four, consistent with ECHR Article 9?

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Seventh Test

This is seventh in my series of other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.  I’d intended to blog a “test” a day.  I missed out a couple days but here’s the next one:

Romans 12

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

II Corinthians 8

21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

This seventh test comes because the highly contagious nature of coronavirus means people are, more than ever, aware of the behaviour of others.

Though the second passage is focused on handling financial matters properly, the principle is stated generally in Romans, and applies to making sure that our behaviour is not only appropriate, but visibly so.  We should not engage in actions which give the appearance that we are doing wrong.

It doesn’t matter if you are sure you have not been exposed to the virus, or if you are sure that what you are doing poses no risk to anyone.  We still need to do all we can to avoid any actions, risky or not, that can appear to others to be risky.

There certainly are people who take unnecessary risks, and do things that spread disease.  In doing so, they may be responsible for severe illness and even the death of others.  We as Christians should not be doing things that give the perception that we are among those, that we are behaving in such a way, whether we are sure that what we are doing is safe or not.

It is obvious that it is not loving our neighbours, whether near or far, to spread a disease.  But it is also not loving them to put them in fear that we are spreading it, even if we know we are not.  That is especially true when we realise that many around us have a fear of death that Christians don’t need to have.

If we are doing that, we are failing in the second great commandment, and thus also in this test.  We are displeasing our Lord, and if those who see us behaving in an apparently-risky way know that we are Christians, we may even be tempting them to blaspheme Him.

Let’s not fail this test.  Be careful that your behaviour is not only appropriate in God’s eyes but also in the eyes of those around us.

The First Test
The Second Test
The Third Test
The Fourth Test
The Fifth Test
The Sixth Test

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Sixth Test

This is sixth in my series of other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.

I Peter 2

12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

The sixth test arises because there are new laws in many places which are highly restrictive.  God tells His people to obey “every ordinance of man,” not because we like or approve of the laws, or because we think the people instituting them are necessarily moral or honourable people, but for the Lord’s sake.

If you are like me, some of the restrictions seem a little over-the-top.  I fail to see why it helps to fight the disease if I take one longer walk in the morning rather than two a day, but the rules say only exercise once, so once it is!

I do not have confidence that the authorities are taking the best course in fighting the coronavirus.  They’ve already changed their plans here in the UK at least once.  The story on whether it is good to wear masks appears to be changing.  It appears to me that the Lord has allowed something to come which is showing all the self-confident rulers the limits of their own self-confidence.  They are up against something which they’ve not faced before and for which there are no perfect answers.  So it’s very possible that some of the rules they’ve established are counterproductive.

Nor is there any confidence that those who are setting the rules are acting with integrity.  Not only are there sad cases like Scotland’s erstwhile Chief Medical Officer, who flouted the very rules she advised for everyone else, but there are no doubt government officials in various places around the world who are looking to use the current situation to increase their power.

It’s a good thing we aren’t told to obey every ordinance of man for the ruler’s sake, isn’t it?  We’d have to try to figure out which rulers are frauds, which are just trying to grab power, and which ones are idiots!  Those diagnostics might be easy sometimes, but they wouldn’t always be.  However, that’s not the test — the Bible tells us to obey for the Lord’s sake.

The passage above tells us this is an important part of what the world sees of us, and of our faith.  The way we live our lives before an unbelieving world matters immensely, and their view of our behaviour reflects on our God, resulting in His being glorified.

And so the test comes, and it’s a hard one when the rules are stringent and may seem over-the-top or downright ridiculous.  The test:  does our behaviour within these rules show that we are more concerned with our rights and our freedoms, and with not being told what to do, or more concerned with glorifying God?  Are we going to respond to verse 13 above by inserting a “coronavirus lockdown exception” clause, or will we respond to it by saying, “This may seem excessive to me, but I want to glorify God”?

The answer to this test says a lot about what kind of Christian we are — and it will say a lot to those around us, who watch our behaviour, about what kind of God we follow and what kind of faith we practice.

That’s the test for today!  If you’ve been failing it, we’re late in the day but you can do better tomorrow.  There’s another test coming!

The First Test
The Second Test
The Third Test
The Fourth Test
The Fifth Test

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Fifth Test

This is fifth in my series of other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.

Psalm 119

97 O how I love Thy law!  It is my meditation all the day.

Ephesians 5

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

The fifth test is whether changes in our lives and in our schedules show whether or not we love God’s Word, and are using our time wisely.

Some people have even less time than usual.  The demands on them have become more intense due to the work that they do.

If this is you, if you have less time than usual, have you let the Word of God slip out of your priorities?  As your time has lessened, have you reserved any for the Word?  We always find time for the things we love.  It may mean listening to the reading of the Word, or to good Bible teaching, on the way to work.  Do you love the Word enough to find a way to make some time for it?

Other people have more time than usual.  They aren’t commuting as they usually do.  Or, they can’t do some of the things they would usually do in their evenings / weekends.

If this is you, if you actually have more time than you usually would have, have you allocated any of that time at all for God’s Word?  If not, you are revealing your values and your priorities.  If you actually love His Word, you would want to spend more time in it.  When more time becomes available, you’d want to use it well, and at least some of that extra time will be used in the things you value the most.

If you love God, you’ll love His Word, and for many people, the decisions we are making about our use of time during the coronavirus upheaval is very revealing about whether we really love Him and His Word at all.  So this really is an important test for us as Christians, in helping us to see whether our hearts are where they should be, or not.  If the “test results” don’t come back as they should, we have some things to sort out.

Sort it today — there’s another test coming!

The First Test
The Second Test
The Third Test
The Fourth Test

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Fourth Test

There’s a lot in the news about testing for coronavirus.  This is my fourth in a series of other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.

Mark 12

28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

The command to love our neighbours is central to the Old Testament Law, second only to the command to love God.  It is repeated clearly in several places in the New Testament as a core duty of the Christian life.

There are many ways we can love our neighbours in the current situation.  We can love all the neighbours in our society by doing what we can to help prevent the spread of the disease.  When we take risks, we are not just risking our own health and life, but that of others we may come into contact with, and those that they may come into contact with.  This also can have a “ripple” effect as it places greater burdens on the medical services, potentially costing the lives of others.

Loving our neighbours in this way can go beyond just being careful.  We can check with our neighbours, when we have to go to the shop, to see if they need anything.  By doing so, perhaps we save them from taking an extra trip, and perhaps being exposed to the virus.

There are many other small things we may be able to do to love our neighbours.  Two days ago, our entire street sang “Happy Birthday” to twins that were confined at home by the current restrictions.  It cost us nothing, but it brightened their day.

Of course, the ultimate way to love our neighbours is to let them see the hope we have and to point them to the Source of that hope.  That may not often be possible but we should always be ready to do so.

It’s going to be hard to love your neighbours if you don’t have any contact or communication with them.  If you live your life on your own and never do anything to reach out to your neighbours, you are going to struggle to pass this test.  It may force you to move outside of your comfort zone — but someday, you’ll give account before the Lord.  I don’t think any of us who love Him really want to have to say, “Well, I didn’t do it because I wasn’t comfortable!”

The Cross wasn’t comfortable, either.  The One who died there for us didn’t come to earth to be comfortable, and He’s the One who calls us to love our neighbours.  Maybe it’s a hard test to pass but there’s no real reason we can’t, or shouldn’t, make a real effort to be the kind of neighbour He wants us to be.

The First Test
The Second Test
The Third Test
The Fifth Test

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Third Test

There’s a lot in the news about testing for coronavirus.  This is my third in a series of other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.

I John 4

7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

I John 4

21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Because of this horrible disease, many of us have been kept from meeting together and seeing one another.  Have we been in touch with our brothers and sisters?  Do we know they are ok?  Have we even thought about the fact that we might never see them again on this earth?  Is there anything at all in our actions that would make anyone think we really love them?

Do we miss them?  Are we spending time with them by phone or Internet when we are able?  Are we praying for them, asking God to protect them from the many ways the adversary will try to destroy them in this time?

Or are we just drifting apart, doing our own thing, or are we reaching out?  Is our Lord happy with our answers to these questions, or have we failed this “coronavirus” test?

If there’s a problem, start fixing it today, because yes, there’s another test tomorrow!

The First Test
The Second Test
The Fourth Test
The Fifth Test

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Coronavirus Testing for Christians – The Second Test

There’s a lot in the news about testing for coronavirus.  I’m giving some other “coronavirus tests” – for Christians.

Psalm 101

3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes….

Psalm 119

37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way.

Many of us are working from home, or are not working at all right now.  If we are using it as an opportunity to watch movies or television programmes (or worse), that we fully know as a believer we shouldn’t be watching, we’ve failed this test.

If this one hits you, and you really are a Christian (and not just faking it or believing a lie about what Christianity really is), something is deeply wrong in your Christian life.  Repent, ask forgiveness, acknowledge your weakness, get accountability software or something else in place, and get back on track.  Do it today, there’s another test coming tomorrow!

The First Test
The Third Test
The Fourth Test
The Fifth Test

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