Your responsibility is more important than your rights
There are 3 aspects to citizenship, rights, privileges, and responsibilities. In some cases an activity can fall into more than one area. Voting is a right granted to citizens of the United States , however; I believe that voting is not only a right it is a responsibility. Back when I was a civics teacher I would tell all of my students that the final exam for the class was to research the candidates and issues, and vote in the next election. I told them that regardless of what grade they got in the class , if they did not fulfill their civic duty and vote they had failed the class.
Currently most people know their rights and are willing to express what they are. In some cases people have even taken things that are actually privileges and made them rights. It is all fine and good that people know what their rights are. The problem is that, with all the talk about rights no one seems to want to talk about responsibilities , unless they’re talking about the responsibility of others. This is not good because when the focus is on rights and privileges, without any focus on responsibilities , a society cannot sustain itself. In order to enjoy the rights and privileges, Citizens must be willing to take on the responsibility of citizenship.
Christians are unique in that we all hold dual citizenship. We are all citizens of the Kingdom of God . We are also citizens of a country. The rights and privileges of a citizen vary based on the country of origin , but as citizens of the Kingdom of God we all have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities. The important thing to note is that as citizens of the Kingdom of God our focus should be on our responsibilities , not on our rights and privileges . In essence our responsibilities are more important than our rights.
To illustrate how at times Christians have to take into account our responsibility over our rights lets take a look at 3 people. First I like you to meet Susan Chapman. Susan Has been a Christian for most of her life . She was raised in a Christian household. She accepted Christ at an early age. Every so often, Susan likes to enjoy a glass of white wine. This is not an issue because Susan does not have a problem with alcohol. One day Susan goes out to dinner with some friends. One of her friends is someone who has had struggles with alcoholism over the years. Susan really enjoys the White wine at this particular restaurant. She would usually order it whenever she comes this restaurant. The fact is that Susan has the right to order Her white wine if she wants to, But is it right to do so?
Next I’d like you to meet Michael Camp. Michael came to faith in his teen years . He was not raised in a Christian home . His parents are not believers. Michael is a passionate advocate for life. He is prolife. He is anti-death penalty, And he does not believe in euthanasia. When attending a mission conference He meets a young lady Who He finds Has had an abortion, She is also A member of an organization called death with dignity That supports physician assisted suicide. Michael is on a committee with this young woman That is trying to raise money To support Missionaries In China. During a lunch break Michael is contemplating Having a discussion with the young woman about Is feelings On the issues of abortion and physician assisted suicide. Michael has every right To discuss these issues with this woman. The question is, is it right to have that discussion at this time?
Finally I like you to meet Greg Xavier. Greg converted to Christianity from another faith. He is very politically involved In the Democrat party. He is passionate about the causes that the party supports. He is unashamedly left of center In his politics. One weekend he goes on a retreat with some of the men from his church. He finds out that one of the men is a staunch Republican. When Greg sees the man In the hallway. He contemplates asking him how he could have the political positions he has and be a Christian. Greg has the right to enter into this conversation , but is it right?
We are afforded a lot of rights as citizens of the United States . Some would argue that the most important rights are those that are enshrined in our First Amendment which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Freedom to exercise our faith, Freedom of speech, Freedom of the press, The right to assembly, And the right to petition government, These are all important rights . I don’t think there would be many who would argue against them. What I would argue Is that sometimes in order to be responsible we need to curtail our rights. I should point out that t he curtailing of one’s rights is an individual decision, not decision made by an outside force in forced onto the individual. I think that is an important distinction to make. Let’s look at Susan’s example. In this country Any individual over the age of 21 As the right to legally consume alcohol in a responsible way. When Susan goes out to her favorite restaurant She has the right to consume a glass of white wine if she so chooses. The question is If she has A friend who struggles with alcoholism Should she order that glass of white wine. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say
Romans 14:2-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Do Not Make Another Stumble 13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
Susan would be well within her right to have a glass of white wine , however; Doing so my be a stumbling block to her friend. Doing so might cause her friend some avoidable discomfort. As a Christian Susan has a responsibility to be accountable to God for her actions. She shouldn’t do anything that would cause someone to stumble. She has the right to have a drink, but that’s not the right thing to do in this situation. Her responsibility to God and to her friend is greater than her right.
In Michaels case he feels strongly about issues of life. He feels that life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong . He feels that life is a gift from God and it is not something that we should just decide to end when we feel like it. These are core issues to him. The question that Michael has to ask himself Is one Is this mission conference the place to have this conversation , and 2 would the conversation be productive considering How strongly he feels about the issues. The answer to the first question is no this is not a good place to have that conversation . The focus for Michael and for everyone else at the conference should be Raising money for the missionaries in China. The fact is that such an emotionally charged conversation would detract from what they are attempting to accomplish. The answer to the second question is, the conversation would Probably not be very productive because of the strong emotional reaction the Michael is having. Christians can and should have productive conversations about deeply divisive issues . We just have to recognize that there is a proper time and place for these conversations, and we must approach the conversations in love. Michael has the right to his opinion , but now is not the right time to express that opinion.
Finally let’s look at Greg. It goes without saying that there is nothing more polarizing in our world today than politics. This is not only an issue in the United States , but we see political diversion all over the world, in Great Britain, in France, in Italy, in Poland, in hungry, in Latin American countries such as Brazil , and Venezuela. People have strong political opinions and they are more than happy to share them with you . Within the body of Christ we have Trumpers And never Trumpers . We have conservatives , and liberals, and progressives. We have Libertarians and authoritarians. If we are truly people of God the one thing that we have in common is the belief in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. In the United States we have the freedom To express our political opinion. Greg has the right to express his political opinion , but is it right for him to do so in his current setting. One could argue that a retreat is not the proper setting for that discussion. One could also argue that the assumption that Greg is making Is improper. He is assuming that someone could not be a Christian simply because they are a member of an opposing political party .
In each of these cases these individuals have the right to do the things that they are considering doing , however as The best course of action in each of these instances would be not to act on the thing that they have a right to do. We have to remember that Christianity is a Faith based on relationships. We have a relationship with our Lord and savior , and we are to build relationships with our fellow Christians and with non-believers . Sometimes it will be necessary for us to curtail our personal rights for the sake of building those relationships. Sometimes it will be necessary for us to curtail our rights in order to do what is responsible.