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Viewpoint from Rt Rev Dr Alan Winton 13/08/2021

alan wintonRt Rev Dr Alan Winton
Bishop of Thetford

 

Freedom Day has come and gone. It’s caused joy for some and heightened anxiety for others and produced a lot of comment and debate in the media
 
Freedom is not a word that occurs a great deal in the pages of the New Testament, but the concept is definitely there. In reflecting on the day, I was drawn back to those last few chapters of St Paul’s letter to the Romans where he explores the limits of our freedom. He may not be talking about whether or not to wear face masks or to maintain social distancing, but the principles would seem to be the same

dove leftFor St Paul, the issue was about the way we easily start to become judgmental of those who behave differently to us. In the early Christian community, the particular problem concerned whether or not to eat meat. Some favoured vegetarianism while others felt that their faith gave them the freedom to eat anything
 
St Paul agrees that “everything is indeed clean”, the early Christians did have the freedom to eat what they wanted. But he goes on “it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat”. We may have freedom, but there are limits to our freedom if the way we behave causes difficulties to others
 
Such a principle would seem to be applicable to our situation today. We have been given significant freedoms but recognising the vulnerability of many in our communities, we should be willing to put their needs first; we should be prepared to impose limits on our own freedom. Love always demands that we put the interests of the other person before our own
 
Dove rightYou may know this prayer from St Augustine of Hippo who was writing some 1600 years ago. He also has something profound to say about the limits of our freedom. He reminds us in this lovely prayer that we will only find our perfect freedom in serving the God of love
 
Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

+ Alan Thetford


also published in the Great Yarmouth Mercury

 


 

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