Rights or Privileges?

by TerryLema

Paul, in Romans Chapter 14 and beginning of Chapter 15 addressed the question, “How should a Christian exercise freedom in Christ?”

You see a number of principles about Christian freedom in those chapters. One of the greatest is that Christian liberty is not about pleasing ourselves.

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself.” [Romans 15:1-3 HCSB]

Many Christians would be surprised to learn that true Christian liberty, unlike that of the secular world, is not a matter of demanding the “rights” we have. Before God we possess no “inherent rights.”  We forfeited all our “rights” in our sinfulness.

Now we exercise our “rights” as “privileges” obtained through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus our Lord. His sufferings obtained our freedom. The example Paul gives us is that even Christ Jesus, the Messiah, our LORD, did not live to please Himself.

That means we are now sensitive to others, especially those weaker brothers and sisters in the LORD. Whatever we do is not to please ourselves, but to build up our neighbors.

At times, that means we must restrain the exercise of our freedom if we know that our liberty will put a stumbling block in the path of others. (Of course, when the truth of the Gospel is at stake, we speak truth boldly and decisively.)

Americans may think in terms of rights – “live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Christians set free by Christ, must think in terms of privileges granted by God. That surely tempers the exercise of such.

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