Our country is in trouble these days because many, many people are fighting for their “rights” at the expense of the “rights” of others. Personally, I think we’ve pushed it to the point of insanity.
Paul has something to say about “rights.” And I think it’s a timely word for us in 2018.
Paul says we all have rights. We have the right to eat meat or not eat meat. We have the right to treat one day holy, and we have the right to treat every day the same. We have the right to drink wine, and the right to abstain. I’d go so far as to say we have a right to wear dress clothes to church, and a right to worship in torn jeans and dirty sneakers. We have a right to prefer hymns, and a right to enjoy a rocking praise song.
Paul says this about our rights. “Let’s stop passing judgment on one another.” (14:13) But here’s the kicker: he goes on to say, “instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” He’ll go on to talk about why setting aside our right to do certain things is the right thing to do.
“But,” you might argue. “I have my rights. If someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem not mine.” I’d like you to show me a verse that supports that argument. I honestly don’t think you’ll find one. From what I read here in Romans, I think God is saying it’s very much our problem.
If you’re worried about your rights, you are focused inwardly. Remember, this life as a child of God is no longer about you. It’s about that unsaved person sitting in the cubicle next to you at work, or living next door. Before you exercise your rights, think about how that action will look to someone who doesn’t know your Savior. Think about that weak Christian who is struggling with sin in regard to what you perceive as your “right.” Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is distressed because of your exercising your right to do something, “you are no longer acting in love.” (14:15) And doesn’t Jesus tell us love is what identifies us as His?
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men…. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. (14:17-21)
I believe our churches, and our nation, would be healthier if we laid our rights at the feet of Jesus, and truly lived as servants of God, setting aside our “rights” for love of Him who gave Himself for us, and for our neighbor who needs Him.