Let’s be honest: the tightened restrictions on gathering this Chinese New Year aren’t great news. As if life with Covid-19 hasn’t been bad enough, we now have a slew of rules that are threatening to dampen the festive season, at least for the Chinese community in Singapore.
No more than 8 visitors per home per day. No visiting of more than 2 homes per day. No shouting of “auspicious phrases” to go with the tossing of the yu sheng salad.
That means we can forget large-scale family reunions, as well as the reunions of old schoolmates and former colleagues that many of us tend to organise at this time. We can also forget the traipsing from home to home to collect ang pows and catch up with relatives we don’t see often. (This, of course, may be good news to some.)
But, some of us may be quietly saying under our breaths, Well, that’s true only if we actually follow the rules.
After all, who’s to know if we visit a few more homes? Who, apart from a nosy or extra-vigilant neighbour, will be able to tell if more than 8 relatives visit us each day?
Realistically, it is difficult for the authorities to check that families are keeping to the rules in their homes. Government leaders themselves have acknowledged this, and urged the public to cooperate for the sake of everyone’s health and safety.
For the sake of public safety and conscience
Given the practical difficulty of enforcement, obeying the rules will be a matter of conscience and civic duty, rather than out of a fear of getting caught.
Undoubtedly, there will be some who will seek to bend and break the rules. Some will do it blatantly (for such is human nature!), and some will do it with some genuine misgivings, perhaps because they themselves find it hard to break with tradition, or because they can’t bear to turn down the requests of older relatives who hold traditions dear.
But, I believe, just as every person who breaks the rules adds to the overall risk of starting another Covid-19 cluster, every person who keeps to it helps to bring this risk down—or at least to help contain it.
As citizens of both the kingdom of God and of this earth, I believe we have a part to play in keeping Singapore safe. We can keep the rules in good conscience, knowing that no matter what others are doing, each of us can do something to add to our nation’s overall safety.
At the same time, I believe we have another reason to obey the rules: because, simply, it will please God. Even if no-one knows of our obedience, God does; His eyes see what man’s cannot.
Philippians 2:1–4 is quoted rather often, but for good reason: it gives us a simple yet powerful call to base our behaviour on love, compassion, and humility.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
We act out of love, because Christ loved us. Not just any love, but love that came with a sacrifice—He was ready to give up all His freedom and rights for our sake.
We act in unity and compassion, for our love compels us to consider the needs of others when deciding to do something for ourselves.
We act in humility, putting the needs of others before our own.
This Chinese New Year, will we keep to the rules and keep our gatherings small?