Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others (Ps. 15: 1-3)
“I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1Cor 10:23-24)
Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-40)
Living in a time of crisis can be revealing in so many ways. Basic personality traits and fundamental approaches to life come strongly to the forefront.
Those who tend to be fearful become more so. Those who are helpers pitch in with greater vigor. The cynical and suspicious see affirmation for their negative viewpoints. Those with a giving nature give more. Some become more contemplative; the seriously laid-back may get even more complacent. Some may conclude that God is either non-existent or uncaring and decide to fend for themselves. Others move even closer and, perhaps for the first time, trust God to guide them in their situation.
It’s been an interesting study in human nature to watch the various reactions to the pandemic threat. The imposition of public health measures has generated a wide spectrum of responses. Some have been fully compliant, grateful for the protection of the community. Some have been conditional, sure that stretching the rules isn’t going to hurt anything. Some have been complacent, not seeing the need for these measures and choosing not to follow them. A few have been confrontational, angrily demanding their right to defy the measures, and seeing them as part of a conspiracy to deny all personal liberties.
This last group has been very vocal in media reports of organized protests. There are people saying, “It’s my God-given right to go to work.” “Nobody can tell me what I have to wear.” “If we let them get away with this, they’ll take away all our rights.”
It does seem that we humans are sometimes much more concerned about our individual rights than we are about our responsibilities to others.
Adding references to God in these kinds of demands is especially jarring. Our “rights” can never override our God-given responsibility to seek the good of others. Seeing the good of others as an infringement of our rights is a negation of what Scripture teaches.
Loving my neighbor means protecting my neighbor in any way I can. When my rights become a threat to my community, my “rights” are unmasked as wrongs.
We have been given the freedom to choose our way of life and eternal destiny. When we choose Jesus, and want to follow His way, our goal is to keep choosing what is right in His sight, what does no harm to our neighbor. God hasn’t called us to live for ourselves, but in community with Him and others. The path of the “rugged individualist” is not on God’s roadmap.
So, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble. (1Cor 10:31).
Trying to be both a Christian and the captain of my own ship is an exercise in pulling myself apart. That’s equivalent to giving my heart to Jesus with one hand, and then taking it right back with the other. All that giving and taking back leads to confusion and exhaustion. Being constantly pulled in opposite directions is never beneficial or constructive, to me or to anyone else. Regarding myself as a Christian while in this kind of state results in decisions that confuse and can be a stumbling block to others.
Under God, I have the right to choose His way as outlined in His Word — or not. I have the right to choose what is good for others — or not. I have the right to become more like Jesus — or not. Each of these rights comes with the responsibility to put them into practice, with the help of the Holy Spirit. When I fulfill those responsibilities, I have the right to spend eternity with the triune God.
Knowing my rights is knowing God and putting that knowledge into action.