Learning from Dominic Cummings

Unless you have been isolating far beyond what is required you will have heard about the ‘Dominic Cummings lockdown affair’.

Neonbrand Pfa7soh0euw Unsplash

Whilst I have no intention to write about the legality or the spirit of his actions – the Durham Police are far better qualified to do that – it has been helpful to reflect on the actions of people throughout this whole affair, and process my thoughts through a biblical mindset. Looking at the behaviour of others can be a valuable tool for the Christian, who should meditate on how God’s Word speaks into the situation. “How would God want me to act in that situation?” is an evaluative question that we should frequently ask ourselves. Here are three lessons I have considered.

Do not be a hypocrite

One of the most ironic images of the whole affair was that of approximately twenty media people, gathered outside Mr Cummings’ home, who were so close to each other that you wondered if they had been glued together. As they sought to question whether Mr Cummings had broken the lockdown rules, they were either blissfully unaware that they were undeniably breaching them or they could not care. One of them shouted, “Is it one rule for you and one for the others?”, seemingly oblivious to how that question could be asked of himself.

The actions of that group, on that occasion, were hypocritical, causing me to think on the words of the Lord Jesus:

“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:5).

Contrary to the view of some Christians, this passage does not teach that judgements should never be made. It does not mean that we should not point out sinful behaviour in another person or hold leaders to account. What the Lord teaches us is that those making the judgement must first examine their own lives, ensuring not that they are sinless but that they are blameless.

If I am going to speak to another Christian about their conduct I need to speak to the Lord about my motives first. Am I doing this so that I can raise myself above them? Am I speaking to them for their good and/or the good of others? Am I going to speak to them with humility of heart, knowing that I have the potential to act in the same way? If these questions can be answered appropriately then I can proceed without being justly called “a hypocrite”.

Be kind to others

In February 2020, the television presenter, Caroline Flack, took her own life days before she was due to face trial for the alleged assault of her boyfriend. Flack’s death gave new momentum to #BeKind, a hashtag created in 2017 by Lucy Alexander, a mother who lost her son to suicide.

The #BeKind hashtag was a response to the practice of verbal bullying, intimidation and slander. Following Flack’s death, the UK media was full of editorials about the need for a change in society, emphasising that we needed to recognise the devastating impact cruel and unnecessary words can have on someone. We all know the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, is utter rubbish. The pain from vicious words often lasts a lot longer than that from physical wounds.

Undoubtedly leaders must be held to account but as I read and listened to some of the words that were being spoken about Dominic Cummings, I wondered what had happened to the #BeKind campaign.

As Christians, we do not need a media campaign to know that we should be kind in what we say and write. As we consider the words spoken and written by others, we can reflect on God’s Word and our alignment to His will. James wrote about the significance of speech, recognising that it can be used for good and evil but that this should not be the case.

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

How we use words, both spoken and written, is a constant challenge. In a multimedia age, the written word can be delivered at nearly the same speed as the spoken word. How we speak and write should be honest, courteous, considerate, humble, and free from mockery.

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Saying sorry is not a weakness

That saying “Sorry” is seen as a sign of weakness is incredibly sad. It is a small word that seems to be extremely hard to say.At Dominic Cummings’ press conference on 25th May, the gathered media wanted to hear him say “Sorry”. One does wonder what the reaction would have been if he had uttered that small 5-letter word. Yet he never said “Sorry” for any of the actions he committed, or for the impression given by those actions. Equally, some key allegations against him were false. Yet you will search in vain for any apologies from the newspapers that made them.

When confronted with the fact that they have done wrong, many people respond with the reactions of an ice hockey goaltender; everything bounces off them. Rather than saying “Sorry”, unsuitable responses occur that are designed to deflect from directly addressing the allegation. The eruption of anger, vain excuses, irrelevant side issues or counter-allegations are all in the armoury of the one who is determined not to say “Sorry”. None of these are helpful in addressing the charge that has been made and it seems as though anything can be attempted to avoid admitting wrong and pronouncing that small word.

Saying “Sorry” requires humility and a willingness to be vulnerable. Yet, for the Christian, this should not be so hard. From the moment when they come to faith in the Lord Jesus, Christians should be marked by ongoing repentance, saying sorry and being determined to change. Confession of our sin to God comes with a marvellous promise of gracious forgiveness, because of the work of Jesus Christ and the character of God.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

As we think about the issue of saying “Sorry”, the example of King David is particularly helpful. This powerful man had committed adultery and been complicit in murder, yet, when one of his servants confronted him, David did not react like a man committed to never saying sorry. He said:

"I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13).

Saying and meaning “sorry” is not a weakness but is a sign of strong Christian character.

Conclusion

The Christian must look upon the events in this world through the lens of scripture; in doing so, helpful lessons can be learnt as known truths are reinforced.