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17th December 2021

As I write, coronavirus is spreading fast but behind the various messages a shift can be detected. It’s a shift away from imposed restrictions – though there may yet be more of those – towards a greater sense of personal responsibility.

Last night (Thursday) the government was accused of not sending out a clear signal – but the dilemma, if not the message, is clear; if a ‘don’t mix’ signal is sent then there are financial consequences for the government.

However all this plays out, what about personal responsibility – and the slogan that often accompanies it, ‘freedom of choice’? First, at one end, the view that we are entirely personally responsible and able to make whatever choices – for our own welfare, financial security and life-goals – we want. Second, at the other end is the bleak but for many (probably many more than for the first) realistic scenario: personal choice is limited by various factors – economic, physical, social, family, community and national.

All of this, and much more, bears on how we choose to respond to the current pandemic. But there is something else – our faith. It could be argued that the Christian faith presents us and our world with the greatest challenge to the ‘freedom of choice’ argument – summed up perhaps best in the letter to the Philippians: Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

The next few verses explain why. It is of course bound up with the nature of Christ – who ‘humbled himself’. Now there’s freedom of choice for you…

Michael Docker