The Freedom to Do the Right Thing

The Freedom to Do the Right Thing

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Pastor’s Article – July 2022 Tower Chimes

There are times when doing the right thing and doing what we have the right to do are juxtaposed with each other. When this happens, I believe the Christian has a duty, if you will, to forego their rights in order to do the right thing.

For example, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, we live in an location where the main supply of water is subject to changes in seasonal rainfall, and that we’re experiencing a mild drought; it’s not enough to threaten the water supply, but it’s definitely decreased the amount of water available to the public. I would argue that at this pre-crisis point in time, I may still have the right to water my now-browning lawn but, for the sake of the general public’s well-being, not watering it is the right thing to.

Why do I say this is the Christian’s duty? Because Paul pretty much says so in 1 Corinthians 8, where he answers the question of whether or not it’s OK for Christians to eat meat which has been dedicated to idols (a big concern in his day). I’ll sum up his answer. Yes, but. Yes, because we Christians know that idols/gods are nothing. On the other hand, No, if doing so causes a new Christian to stumble in their faith. Here it is in his own words:

You must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed” (vv. 9-11).

His personal application of this idea, I believe, ties it to our own behavior. “So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble” (v. 13). Are we not called to chose to do likewise—for the sake of others?

July 4 is all about American freedom and the rights we have as citizens of this nation. But what happens when our individual civil freedoms bump up against the natural freedoms common to us all as human beings?

When it comes to the ongoing debate over the rights afforded to U.S. citizens by the Second Amendment, how is it that so many Christians have made fighting for their constitutional rights a higher priority than doing the right thing? Should the freedom to purchase and own weapons designed for warfare trump the freedom to be able to participate in the public arena without fear of being shot and killed by someone who lawfully obtained such a weapon? When my constitutional freedom gets in the way of your human freedom, then it’s up to me to make an adjustment. It’s my duty as a fellow human being to do the right thing for the sake of the larger community.

In this space, I’m not advocating for any particular legislation. What I am coming down on is the vociferous opposition to any kind of limits to gun ownership simply on account of our Second Amendment rights, a position touted by many prominent Christians these days. As a nation, we’re experiencing an epidemic of gun violence; no other country in the entire world is having to address this issue at the level we are. For the sake of our national well-being, it’s vital that we as a people do the right thing, which is doing whatever we have to do to truly and dramatically lower gun violence in our country. Period.

Keep in mind, dear friend, that the salvation of our very souls came at the cost of Jesus Christ foregoing his divine “right” to remain in his state of glory. For our sake, he “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” after which he “he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). If any Christian thinks it’s more important to stick up for their individual rights than to do the right thing for the sake of all, then, on principle, might they consider giving their new life and spiritual freedom back to God? All I can say is that it’s a good thing God didn’t take such a position! If he had, we’d all still be dead in our sins.

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