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Temporarily giving up right of free assembly is a sacrifice of love

Christian letter writer invokes the life of Christ as an example for followers during COVID

It’s been a tough year. I think it’s safe to say that, to some degree, the pandemic has made things difficult, in some way(s), for most people.

As a Christian, I am among many who find the restrictions on gathering together with others who share my faith hard. Listening to Dr. Bonnie Henry in the early days of the pandemic I gathered she was trying to manage our expectations by telling us that a vaccine would most likely be necessary for us to be able to return to the life we considered normal, and that a vaccine could take up to a year or longer to become available.

Based on that information, I knew that we would most likely be asked to refrain from gathering in person as church families beyond Christmas and believed we would be incredibly fortunate to be able to gather the way we were used to by Easter 2021.

We are not to gather in person to celebrate Christ’s birth and while we might be allowed to resume small in-person gatherings by the time we remember his death and resurrection in 2021, the truth is we really don’t know the timeline of this virus and its impact in the year ahead.

As a Christian, I consider myself incredibly blessed to live in a country where peaceful assembly is actually a right. That said, I also consider myself very fortunate to live in a country and a province where my health and the health of others weighs heavily on those in leadership.

I am thankful for the knowledge of those such as Dr. Henry and the wisdom they seek to apply in the difficult roles they have in trying to limit the spread of the virus. I am thankful for the political will to do what is necessary to slow the progress of the pandemic and its impact.

Some of the decisions haven’t been popular and are proving difficult medicine for sure, but they have never told us to abandon our faith. In fact, we have been encouraged to continue to live in our faith and to live it out. We do not need to gather in person to do that.

For Christians, faith is not meant to be confined to a few hours on Sunday. Those few hours are incredibly important to us. Those few hours that we had come to take for granted will be all the more precious to us when they are once again possible.

The media has highlighted a number of Christian congregations in the province that have defied the restrictions declaring their Charter rights to peaceful assembly. I am also hearing rumblings that there may be some churches in our valley that may share their sentiment.

While I am thankful for that Charter right, I find it ironic that in this Advent season there are Christians who want to make it an issue before the courts during this pandemic.

The reason I find it ironic is that this is a season where we celebrate that Jesus emptied himself of all his rights as God to come to Earth to live in human form. During the Christmas season we celebrate the humble birth of a baby. We celebrate the birth of Jesus who, during his ministry, didn’t go around demanding his rights, but actually taught about going the extra mile when going one mile was required.

He taught that we are to love our Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbour the way we love ourselves. He taught us who our neighbour is in the parable of the Good Samaritan – the person who needs mercy.

He didn’t even demand a fair trial before his crucifixion, but with powerful meekness died as the perfect sacrifice. Even after his resurrection from the dead a few days later he didn’t go around making demands. Jesus, God in human form, did not demand his rights.

I look forward to the day when the world isn’t plagued by COVID-19. I look forward to the day when I can gather with my fellow believers without the restrictions needed to protect us from the virus. I look forward to the day when peaceful assembly isn’t something we need to avoid in order to love our neighbours.

I hope there doesn’t come a day where I find myself demanding my Charter rights at the possible expense of my neighbour’s. Not gathering in person with others who share my faith is very difficult, but during this time, I am thinking of it as a sacrifice of love.