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Rights

I was fairly young when I came to the realization that whenever someone exercises his/her right to do something, it is quite often at the cost of someone else losing a right. My thoughts on this really shaped up when Florida went through the battle of prohibiting smoking in public places. When tobacco users were allowed their right to smoke in restaurants, office buildings, grocery stores, airports and sporting events, non-smokers were deprived of their right to breathe fresh air. When smokers were eventually denied the right to smoke at their desk or to enjoy a cigarette with their after-dinner coffee, non-smokers finally gained their right to work and eat in a smoke-free environment.

I have the right to play the style of music I want to hear, and play it as loud as I want. But if I play it so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, I have deprived you of your right to a serene, quiet atmosphere.
You see how simple this principle is? Whenever you or I force our right to be able do something of our choosing, we may very well be depriving someone else of his/her right.

Perhaps this is the principle Jesus had in mind when he spoke of loving your neighbor as yourself. When our words, attitudes and actions are self-centered and all about “me, me, me,” we’re basically saying that no one else’s feelings, beliefs or convictions matter. And, it’s outwardly expressing that we really don’t care how our actions might hurt, discriminate or affect someone else. This is the polar opposite of what Scripture teaches. Jesus knew that if I loved you and cared about you the same way I love and care about myself, I am going to consider your feelings and desires equally as my own. I will think twice about how loud I’m playing my music and, without you having to ask me, I will turn the volume down so that I don’t disturb or offend you. To love you as I love myself is to relinquish my rights to you.

What a wonderful world this would be if everyone lived according to the above principle. It would eliminate the majority of the public and political battles we have on our hands today, not to mention those of our past. But that’s not the case. Regardless if they want to be, and even though it may be for the sake of standing up for their convictions, society has purposely drawn Christians into this battle. And, Christians and non-Christians alike have taken up the “that’s my right” banner, and they are vehemently waving it on the side of the battle for which they are standing. It’s become an outright “my right” versus “your right” war.

To ensure their side wins and their rights prevail, corporations and conglomerates have become bullies, threatening boycotts and blackmailing states with financial losses if they don’t give in to the rights of one side, while showing total disdain for the rights of the other side.

This “my rights” attitude is not found in Scripture. What is found in Scripture is that I’m supposed to love others as myself. In a nutshell, Philippians 2:1-4 outlines the lifestyle I am to live as a Christian: I am to have the same mind as Christ, the same love and purpose. I am not to do anything out of selfish ambition or vainness, but in humility I am to consider others better than myself. I am to look to the interests of others in addition to my own. Lastly, my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Even though He was God, He made Himself nothing and took on the nature of a servant. He humbled himself and died on a cross….not for my rights or your rights…but for my sin and your sin.

If you’re adamant about claiming your rights, here’s one for you. You have the right to become a child of the King. Not because of anything you have done, but for what Christ did for you. Now that, my friend, is a right worth fighting for.

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