Be careful not to bind with what we won’t be bound by

More and more revelations about Downing Street parties keep coming to light. The Prime Minister, who has made a career out of bluff and bluster, is carrying on in typical style. Deny, deny, deny. Even where there are admissions, his integrity does not apparently extend to resigning. As far as he is concerned, this is everybody else’s fault (for some reason).

Understandably, most people are pretty angry. Whilst they were being told they could not visit dying family members, the Prime Minister (and others) were merrily breaking their own rules by having parties. Jacob Rees-Mogg recently came out and seemed to argue that, perhaps, there was a realisation that the rules were too harsh to wear and it wasn’t unreasonable for them to be broken.

Quite how this admission makes matters better is beyond me. If the measures were too hard, they should have been rescinded. Far from making it seem better, to continue to impose rules that are now deemed ‘too hard’ whilst gladly breaking them yourself is not only hypocritical (the original accusation) but also cruel to make others wear what you deem ‘too hard’. It is also not reasonable to expect a nurse, for example, to know when they can and can’t break rules that have been blanket imposed on them. They – like most people in most jobs – do not have the authority or right to make such decisions on the fly as they see fit. No part of this defence was credible.

And now, it seems, most people are deeply unhappy with the Prime Minister and increasingly frustrated with those in his cabinet who are defending his behaviour. Prof John Curtice, a leading polling expert, has said according to The Times, ‘it was remarkable that a majority of people who voted Tory in 2019 now disapproved of the prime minister’s performance, saying this was a consistent picture across the polls.’ He went on to say, ‘Some of the anger will dissipate, some of the Conservative support will return. But on current form so far that might get the Tories back up to 34 per cent. It’s not going to get them back to the 40 per cent that they were at before this started.’ Overwhelmingly, the British public think the Prime Minister ought to resign and he has lost their support.

There is a similar issue we face in the church. Just as people do not take kindly to government’s imposing rules on them that they have no intention of keeping themselves, so there are those of us in the church who happily tell others what they should be doing with little intention of doing those things ourselves. Pulpits are frequently places where calls to holiness are not heeded by the very people making them. Not only might pastors call people to standards that they won’t keep themselves, but members may call their leaders to do things they have no interest or willingness to do either. Everybody seems to have opinions and views on all sorts of things that they gladly expect of others and seem less willing to wear themselves. And when such things tell, it is frequently everybody else who is the problem.

Watching our Prime Minister carry on the way he is doing is a potent reminder to those of us in the church not to load burdens onto others that we are unwilling to bear ourselves. That doesn’t mean everything is a resigning matter. But it does mean there should be an ownership of our sin. It does mean that we must work hard not to bind people with burdens we will not abide by ourselves. It might mean we disqualify ourselves when we do these things. And it certainly means we can’t be that surprised, if we do these things, when people suddenly don’t support us and wonder what the point of listening to us really is.