1Every person must submit to the authorities in power, for all authority comes from God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him. 2It follows that anyone who rebels against authority is resisting a divine institution, and those who resist have themselves to thank for the punishment they will receive.
Romans 13: 1-2 – Revised English Bible
5’His teaching is causing unrest all over Judaea. It started in Galilee and now has spread here.’
Mark 23: 5 – Revised English Bible
Since my last post, the government, some would say unsurprisingly, have delayed lifting restrictions for another month.
What should we do? Continue to comply or start to resist? My purpose on this blog is not to encourage people to break the law, but many Christians may be tempted to wonder:
‘What does our Christian teaching say, which direction does it point us in?’
Of course, it’s difficult to be certain, because there are so many interpretations of the Bible. But the Bible gives us far more pointers than we often think, particularly if we broaden our thoughts about Jesus’ teaching, not just to look at what he said, but at what he did.
A great deal has been written about what Jesus said. All Christians, and even many who are not Christian, would be aware of:
‘I am the way the truth and the life;’…John 14:6
‘Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors;’…. Matthew 5: 44
‘I give you a new commandment: love one another;’….John 13: 34
But having spent much of my last fifteen years studying the Bible, I’ve come to the conclusion that often we know much less about what Jesus did, and we certainly don’t tend to be led by his actions as much as we claim to be by his words.
I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that Jesus was something of a revolutionary of his day. It’s not the way that he tends to be portrayed, but the signs are there, if we can open our minds to see them. I fear that we’ve tried to tame the real Jesus, to get him to fit nicely and comfortably into our modern worldview. We absolutely do not want Jesus to be scaring the horses!
This is, I firmly believe, totally mistaken. What Jesus did should shake us to our very foundations. If we can’t get this, we lose so much that could help us to make our way out of our current challenges.
As proof of what I’m saying, have a look at the following stories:
Luke 13:10-17. The woman in the story, often referred to as ‘The bent woman’ had been crippled for eighteen years and she enters the synagogue on her own. This is a real scandal; at the time, she would never have been allowed into the synagogue alone and she would have been seen by the authorities (disgracefully by our modern standards) as having been punished by God. Jesus lays his hands on her – an act that would have made him ritually unclean requiring weeks of ‘purification’, and heals her. The whole story is scandalous by the standards of the day. Is this what we usually see in this story? I don’t think so!
Mark 5: 1-13. This is the story of a man who is not just ‘possessed by an unclean spirit’ but lives amongst the tombs, with the dead bodies. And he’s naked. He’s unclean and not following Jewish custom on multiple levels. Jesus should have refused to have anything to do with him. Instead, he heals him.
Mark 5:25-34. The woman in this story had suffered from haemorrhages for twelve years. She touches Jesus and thereby makes him ritually unclean. He heals her. Again, it would have caused outrage.
Matthew 15:21-28. In this story, Jesus is approached by a gentile woman, in the land of the enemies of the Jewish people, known as Philistines earlier in their history. She comes into where he is staying on her own and he talks to her. Both these actions are completely unacceptable. She then challenges him, completely normal in our world, but not in Jesus’s. He heals her daughter.
Luke 7: 36-50 This woman, described as ‘living an immoral life’ lets down her hair and wipes Jesus’ feet with it. Her hair should never have been seen. This story is jaw-dropping by the moral standards of the day. Jesus forgives her sins. What? Yes, he forgives her sins.
John 4: 1-42 The woman at the well. A sinful, ritually impure gentile woman becomes a disciple of Christ and afterwards she takes the gospel to the Samaritans, becoming the first preacher in Christianity. Unthinkable on so many levels by the social and religious standards of the time!
There are plenty more stories where Jesus behaves in a way that would have marked him out as a challenger of what is acceptable; as someone who does not just push boundaries but smashes them. He touches a leper; we know now that this is safe, but they didn’t at the time. As a further example, women, who were not allowed to give evidence in courts of law at the time were the first to witness the resurrection, on which Christianity relies for its very existence.
Against the background of all these stories and more, we have Roman 13:1-2, where Paul tells us to obey human authorities, which I’ve shown above. Why should this not apply to us? Because we thereby totally lose the context. Paul knows that if early followers resist the Romans, they will be crushed. Better to co-operate if possible whilst his fragile early church grows and gets stronger. I’ve said before that Paul would be appalled at his letters being taken as a binding instruction to all, for every time and place. He wrote to those who sought his guidance and in replying, he tailored what he was saying to where they were, and what the circumstances were. For example, Corinth was very, very different to Rome!
I’ve read several pieces in the last 15 months suggesting that our duty as Christians is to follow Paul’s teaching obediently and comply with our own authorities, in their imposition of lockdown and much besides. This seems to be the only doctrine that the Church of England is following.
I feel very strongly that this is completely wrong. If you start to look at Jesus as a revolutionary, not only can you very clearly start to see him differently, but also you can see why he was executed. He was killed, purely and simply, for challenging the authorities; not just the Romans, but the Jewish authorities and the customs of the Jewish people.
Currently, we have moral and ethical issues almost without number in our news; as a small example, the following:
- Our authorities are considering encouraging children to receive the jab (I will not grace it with the world ‘vaccine’ as it is not one). Children cannot gain any advantage from being jabbed, but there is mounting evidence that they can and will be harmed and even killed as a direct result of government policy, if approved.
- The government and the media have combined with the deliberate, conscious policy of terrifying the population; it is probably the greatest moral outrage of our generation.
- The government and the media have united to repress information and spread propaganda. This has never happened before in my lifetime.
- Government and its advisers have united to put out data that has been deliberately, consciously distorted, in very thinly disguised lies.
- Children’s education has been so seriously affected by the lockdowns (note not by the pandemic) that a whole generation’s life chances have been destroyed and years of hard work thrown away.
This is the tip of the iceberg. The lies, distortion and suppression of the truth has been on a daily, industrial scale.
And against this deluge of immoral and unethical acts, what has the Church of England said?
- The House of Bishops met on 24th June. None of these issues were even discussed. Instead, they talked about anti-racism, the handling of Clergy files, Church Finances and Clergy Remuneration.
- General Synod will meet from 9 to 12 July. The big moral issues of our day are not on the agenda, which instead focuses on Climate Change and Racial issues.
- The only reaction that I’ve been able to find to the government’s decision to extend the restrictions was from the Bishop of London, who wholly supported the decision.
- The Church has focused on how to increase digital giving in churches.
- The Church has stressed the importance it places on singing. But it is wholly supportive of the restrictions.
The above list are the only announcements that I can find that the C of E has made in the last month (other than the appointment of a couple of Bishops). Since March 2020, the Church has been going out of its way to support government 100% and has even added its voice to encouraging people to be jabbed.
The Church has been pretty much completely silent on all huge moral issues. They have collaborated with government in inflicting damage on the population.
We do not need to be clairvoyant to know how Jesus would feel about this.
He would be utterly appalled.
Heavenly Father, give us the strength to challenge the Church authorities, as Jesus did in his day, when he saw them collaborating with the hated Roman overlords.
And breathe determination into those who represent our Church, to speak out against the massive injustice and immorality of the current situation. Amen