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Unfair

As I write this, I have been on coronavirus lockdown for six weeks. For a single person living in a small apartment, that has meant days at a stretch when I do not go through the front door—life is pretty much defined by academic work on my computer and figuring out what to do about dinner. Every ten days or so, I venture out to buy things at the grocery store. (When my kitchen fluorescent light quit, I rejoiced because I had an excuse to go to the hardware store.)

I expect my life is very typical of most people's at the moment. My friend in Spain says he takes the long way around when he is carrying a bag of trash (they don't have house-to-house pickup there) because he can get a walk through the neighborhood if he is legitimately carrying garbage to the bin.

I keep seeing complaints in print that all this social distancing is just not fair. It's not fair that I can't get a haircut. It's not fair that I can't get together with friends. It's not fair that churches are shut down.

From the movie Labyrinth:
Sarah: It's not fair…
Jareth: You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is?

This Sunday's reading from I Peter has a lot to do with what's "fair" (and it's worth backing up to the beginning of the chapter to get the whole context). If everyone has to obey the same law, that's fair. My friend in Spain cannot get in the car with his husband because only one person is allowed in a car at a time. The penalties for violating the rules begin at €100 and quickly work their way up to €1000—with a year in prison possible.

Peter's letter deals with that issue. If my friend violates the law and has to pay €1000, that's fair. The law is the same for everyone (even if you don't like it) and the penalties are evenly applied. You don't get any credit when you are punished disobeying the law.

And what about punishment for doing things that are specifically Christian? (I'm thinking of the people who had to pay fines for feeding the homeless or providing drinking water for migrants—famous stories from the news media.) Peter covers that too. Christ suffered unfairly. When you do right and suffer for it, God counts that in your favor.

Which, I guess, brings me to the whole question of meeting as a church in spite of government regulations. There's such a thing as "natural consequences." We teach children not to touch hot stoves, not because we want to restrict their natural freedom, but because we don't want them to get injured. Spreading the virus and making our fellow Christians get sick or die would fit into the "natural consequences" category. It's not acting in love to spread misery among the parishioners. And after all, the early church got along just fine in many places and times without large congregational meetings. They just didn't have the Internet.
—Curt Allen

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