It is day n of quarantine. (I am honestly not keeping count.) The first few days of quarantine were extremely boring for me. As of the moment, though, I’ve been trying to have my own daily routine. It’s been quite surprising how some of my friends (and other people from the internet) are doing with the time they have so much in their hands. I’ve never expected people to get past binge-worthy Netflix shows like CLOY or the like, but it seems like people have been tired of that, too! I am a witness of people participating in Twitter and Instagram games, playing Bingo on Instagram, joining in the TikTok craze, and haha-reacting to trashtalkan and rambulan posts on Facebook. There have been so much trends on the internet nowadays, and perhaps sometimes we can find a way of escape through the media and its comedic influence.
But life goes on and reality hits us all. News from all around the world about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has been taking its toll on economies and businesses are reported worldwide. Additionally, local news are surprising us all with the national government’s poor and incompetent response to the health crisis. Along with the comedic posts on Twitter and Facebook are also the spiteful comments and criticisms of citizens expectant of a better and progressive government. We see that along with the funny (and quite offensive/disrespectful) jokes are also the overly critical (and just plain mean) comments that we see online.
I am writing this perhaps to call out and gently rebuke the Christians who have been participating in some way to these kinds of mean and disrespectful posts and comments. I understand that the government has been quite a mess with how they’re handling this situation, but have you seen His Big Picture? Have you ever wondered why God would allow such things to happen in the first place?
Before I try to address my sentiments on those difficult questions, let me tell you a personal story. Just a week ago, my mom and I were talking about Vico (our mayor) and some of the things that he were implementing for a safer Pasig. Of course, I was praising him for such medical solutions (such as the sanitation drones and stuff), comparing this feat to that of the national government (with the military and police guarding the checkpoints and imposing curfew). Yes, I am an advocate of #SerbisyongMedikalHindiMilitar. My mom, however, sees my comment as something negative. She tells me, “Hindi ba pwedeng sumunod na lang tayo at ‘wag nang kumontra?” I was surprised to hear such a familiar comment (but coming from my mom?!). This can’t be, obviously, so I ended up talking about how the people can’t just blindly follow rules that are imposed to us. There’s nothing wrong with following the rules and also criticizing it. And the government is supposed to serve the people of the country, not serve themselves. Let’s just say I also added quite negative and personal comments towards the VIP senators and the president. But then my mom rebukes me with this verse, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1” And after this, I am shushed. For this, I began to ponder.
I haven’t had my own personal quiet time with God that day, so I quickly went to a solitary place and opened my Bible. Lo and behold, another verse that addressed my sentiments quite fairly. I read, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. — Exodus 14:14” And of course, my prideful self didn’t want to be silenced! As I prayed that day, I was really asking God if (1) Is it biblical to fight back? and (2) Is it biblical to complain and rant about an incompetent government? (I literally wrote those two questions in my journal.)
Going back to my mom’s rebuke with Romans 13 about submitting to authorities, I began to think deeper. What is the context of this verse, anyway? Does this refer to blind obedience? I liked how Joshua Steele (2013), an Anglican priest, puts it:
His (referring to Paul, the author of Romans) audience then (and readers of the epistle today) would not, therefore, be expected to never challenge the government or abstain from promoting or participating in its practices, as Romans 13:1-7 has often been used to argue. Instead, they were (and are) to wisely interact with human governments, not seeking to cause any trouble in society that would damage their testimony, but not hesitating to stand firm in the cause of Christ their King when human governments do things contrary to the kingdom of God. (emphasis and italics mine)
How do we make sense of all these, then? Well, here are some of the key questions to consider before you speak of the government. Here is my attempt to reconcile the issue of incompetent leaders and God’s command to submit to authority.
#1: Does this comment reflect negatively on my testimony?
If it does, it’s better to delete the post altogether. Always put in mind that as Christians, we are expected to rebuke, correct, or argue with gentleness and respect. I pray that in our anger towards this government, we do not sin against them [because we also sin against God]. Remember that one of God’s greatest commandments is to bring others to Him, but how can Christians attract more followers of Jesus if we are not known by His love that we share to everyone?
#2: Is there any other ill-natured motive of why I speak?
I believe that the primary motive of people as they post and correct the government is to educate people who are quite unaware of the situation or blinded by their own privilege. We educate people because we love them enough to let them know that they’re seeing it wrongly. If there is any other motive (e.g. pride) that is in your heart, then repent. Is it because you want to sound smart? Is it for the clout? Whatever it is, we are always susceptible to that of the sin of pride. Remember, you are already a victim of pride when you think that your way is always better (or right) than the others. This is what C.S. Lewis said about pride in his book Mere Christianity: “For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.“
#3: Am I reminded of God’s sovereignty as I speak?
If you could’ve observed, the past two questions were merely questions about ourselves and how we respond rightly. I’d like to shift my focus now on the One who is in control of everything and is amidst all the disasters that may come our way. You’ve heard this a lot of times now, but God is in control. He allowed this to happen—-and we may not fully understand why—but it is in these times that we can get to be closer to our family, friends, or even to the Lord God Himself. “He must increase, and I must decrease” is one of the most profound verses of the Bible. It is a simple statement of humility. It’s a realization that the moment we give our life to God, we allow more of Him to be in control and not us. Humility is not merely looking down on yourself; true humility is when we see who we truly are in the light of a holy and perfect God. I think it is when we realize that we really can’t do anything that we discover that it is only God who can and who will deliver us from the suffering that we have.
If I were to sum these all up into one verse, I would always think like this: ““Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is edifying. — 1 Corinthians 10:23” We may have all the autonomy and freedom to speak our minds, but I just hope that we put what we say or what we do in light of the name that we bring with us which is Jesus Christ our Lord.