In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5 (NCV)
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)
The subject of individual rights is a hot topic right now. Perhaps it has always been, at least in the United States of America. It is a country that prides itself on “rugged individualism,” nonconformity, and independence. “I want to live my own life, and you can’t tell me what to do” is a common refrain for many.
The assertion of individual rights is as American as apple pie and baseball. If we only had the founding documents, this would be perfectly understandable. However, for Christ-followers, standing up and demanding our rights presents us with conflict.
To illustrate our dilemma, we have these two “declarations”:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -Declaration of Independence.
Few sights are more depressing than that of a professed Christian defending his supposed rights and bitterly resisting any attempt to violate them. Such a Christian has never accepted the way of the cross... The only cure for this sort of thing is to die to self and rise with Christ into newness of life. -A. W. Tozer
Is it any surprise that there is so much turmoil today?
If our personal rights are the dominating factors in our outlook toward life, we might have difficulty reconciling our attitudes and actions to what Christ is calling us to do.
The call of Christ is to “turn the other cheek,” “go the second mile,” and even “be willing to give up our lives.” As Christians, we have no problem with these concepts, in theory, but reality is more challenging. To those with an awareness of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the call of Christ stands in opposition. “Unalienable rights” versus the cross.
The “slippery slope” argument posits that if we do not stand up for and assert our “God-given rights,” we will soon lose them. It makes perfect sense until you come to the cross. The cross is an instrument of death. The one who goes to the cross surrenders his rights.
What Does it Mean for Us?
Dual citizenship sounds attractive until the values conflict. Does it mean that we should just roll over and comply with whatever demands are placed upon us as Christians? It is not that simple. In the life of Paul, there were several occasions when he pulled out his “Roman citizenship” to assert his rights.
From the very beginning of the church, believers stood in opposition to the world. The apostles, refusing to comply with the demand that they keep from speaking about Jesus, asked this question: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19–20 (NIV)
In this country, the founders enshrined certain protections and rights, and there is nothing wrong with reminding each other and our leaders of these safeguards. However, things change, and we must not make an idol out of our rights. Regardless of what happens, will we be willing to do what is right in God’s eyes? Will we pay the price?
And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation. Philippians 2:5 (TPT)
Advocate for Others
While our rights may be under attack, we should never stop advocating for the rights of others. We could make the case, that if we are willing to stand up for the rights of others, especially those who are persecuted and oppressed, God will take care of us. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8–9 (NIV)
Even though we may lose our rights and privileges, we must continue to push forward and do what we can to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I am confident that if we take care of God’s priorities, he will take care of us.
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:37–40 (NLT)
It may seem counterintuitive to advocate and care for others when we believe that our rights and privileges are threatened, but we must not fail to be a voice for those who have no voice and defend those who have been left alone.
God Will Take Care of Us
We need to understand that everything that we have comes from God. We sometimes forget that there is a cost to following Christ. It could also be that it will take a stripping away of everything that we hold dear so that we can learn what really matters. Paul, like Jesus, understood where his road was leading him. He also knew that it was worth it, and he encouraged others: Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but we can be assured that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”