The peril of having rights

One of the most, if not the most, cherished things about living in America is the rights we have as individuals, rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We crave those rights, those freedoms, and want to be able to express them.

There is a perilous aspect of these freedoms for followers of Jesus. The peril appears when demanding our rights/freedoms be respected become the top priority. The peril shows itself when what we do is done because we have the right to do it. The peril becomes great when our actions are guided by asserting the rights we possess and the actions we expect from others toward us because of possessing those rights.

Why is there peril?

There is peril because what should be the primary and sole motivating factor changes. The primary motivation for doing something becomes, “because I possess the right to do it and I’m asserting that right.”

Think about Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus took on human form and did not assert his rights as God, even though he had every right to expect them to be recognized by all: the right to be worshipped, the right to have whatever he desired; the right to be glorified, and so on.

Instead, Jesus allowed himself to be rejected, to be hated, to be mocked, to be beaten, to be killed. Even though he, most of all, had the right to expect his rights to be respected and recognized, he did not assert them in his interactions with people.

His primary motivation for what he did was two-fold: love and glorifying the Father.

When asserting freedom possessed to do a certain thing becomes the primary motivation for an action, followers of Jesus find themselves on a perilous precipice. The Apostle Paul recognized this when he told the believers at Corinth that he would not assert his freedoms as a follower of Christ if doing so would cause someone to stumble.

As people who are followers of Jesus and also are American citizens with rights and freedoms, we must remember that asserting and expecting people to recognize our rights cannot be our motivation for what we do. It must be love and glorifying God.

Let us examine why we are taking the action we are taking. Is it because we have the right as Americans to do so, or is it because of love for a person and an intense desire to glorify God who has an infinitely-large heart for people?

 

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