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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Rights of a Christian

I usually do not comment on my Dad's blog. First, because I do not usually feel like I have anything of substance to add to what he has said, and secondly because it seems kind of strange for me to be promoting my Dad on my blog. But I did want to comment on something he wrote today, which I think needs to get out to more Christians.

How should Christians deal with disputable matters? The sad thing is that the way we are supposed to deal with them is usually very different from how we actually deal with them. In this quote, he was referencing Romans 14 and the guidelines that Paul gave to dealing with these matters among brothers:

1. Accept one another anyway.
2. Do not violate your conscience.
3. Do not cause your brother to stumble.

It seems to me that Christians are much more focused on #2, and less on #1 and #3. People go to great lengths to avoid complying with #3, because that part requires us to give up our rights for the benefit of our brother.

....

We hate the idea of giving up our rights. In our effort to avoid that, we sometimes go to ridiculous lengths. We argue about whether a matter is disputable or not (Think about how silly that argument is!) Or we argue about who is the "weaker brother" (What difference does that make? Regardless of whether he is the weaker or the stronger brother, I should not do anything to cause him to stumble). It seems that any argument will do, as long as it results in me keeping my rights.

I started thinking about how often this happens in the Christian community, and it really is sad. Think of all the things that Christians disagree over:
  • Celebrating Halloween, or include Santa Claus/Easter Bunny in Christmas/Easter
  • Homeschooling vs. evangelizing the public schools
  • Reading Harry Potter or other similar books
  • Following the Mosaic Law (ie, keep the Sabbath) - or how far to follow it
  • Being involved in politics
  • Watching movies with questionable themes
  • Playing violent video games
  • Having a Youth Ministry, or keeping children in worship service
  • Singing contemporary music vs. old hymns in worship (not even getting into the instrument issue)
  • Dressing modestly, or what constitutes modest attire
  • Tithing
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Reading from a certain translation of the Bible
These are just the ones I came up with off the top of my head. I'm sure I have just barely scratched the surface - and we haven't even gotten into meatier issues that the vast majority of Christians would consider NOT disputable (baptism, election, role of women, etc). For most of those items, I have very strong opinions about what I believe, and I have scriptures that I believe back up my opinions. But I know other Christians who hold different opinions, and they also believe that scripture supports them.

I think it's sad how often one Christians will know that another Christian has a strong conviction that they, for example, will never drink alcohol - and yet they have no problem ordering a glass of wine at dinner with that person. As Paul says, it is better never to drink alcohol again than to cause your brother to stumble.

It has been said before, but I think it bears saying again: We Americans are so addicted to our 'rights' and 'freedoms' that we disregard the commands of God: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.... When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." (1 Corinthians 8:9, 12-13)

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  • Alan

    Nice post! ;-)

  • CappuccinoLife

    I agree! The obsession with rights is something that has bothered me about American Christianity. It may be an "American value" but it isn't a Christian one, and I think it gets a lot of relationships in trouble.

    Btw, I have wanted to comment on all sorts of things, but blogger hates me, sometimes I can sign in, sometimes not. Just know I'm still appreciating your blog!