Letter from the Rectory - October 2023
I’ve recently had to drive into London near The City on two days in succession. I had no quarrel with my fellow car, van or lorry drivers, even once I’d grasped the necessity of sometimes driving out in front of on-coming traffic from a side road. However, I did notice that large numbers of bicyclists made no attempt whatever to observe the traffic lights or any other barrier to their progress. As a one-time London cyclist, I’m largely aware of their challenges.
Then I read about the epidemic of shoplifting, from teenagers in a mass looting spree in Oxford Street last month to single individuals in corner shops with empty rucksacks. Some smaller shopkeepers are wondering whether they’ll manage to keep their stores open; they and their customers are fearful.
Of course, the steep rise in the cost of living has created very serious issues for some families who feel trapped and don’t know how they’re going to bring food home whilst paying for the increased utility bills. However, the complete rejection of certain laws of the land is concerning for the majority of law-abiding citizens.
Christianity can be perceived as a whole list of laws, of ‘dos’ and don’ts’ – boring rules and regulations primarily aimed at stopping us enjoying ourselves. In Withyham Church this Autumn, we are revisiting the Ten Commandments. Given to Moses and the Israelite people in approximately 1,400 BC, they remain remarkably relevant in the very different setting of the 21st Century.
The guidance for living found in the pages of the Bible is not intended to spoil our fun but rather it’s for our own benefit. Imagine a game of football where there were no rules, no touchline and no referee: it wouldn’t be much fun even if you were winning. Near the end of lengthy instructions about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way …’
Some rules today, especially in the area of Health and Safety are certainly over-proscriptive. However, particularly where the purpose of a law is to primarily to protect the vulnerable, it is concerning when large numbers ignore them. Maintaining justice and security for its citizens are the fundamental duties of any democratic state, as well as primary concerns for the practising Christian.