Re­spon­si­bil­ity and rights

The Covington News - - Religion -

One of the great mal­adies of our so­ci­ety to­day is our in­sis­tence on rights but our ne­glect of re­spon­si­bil­ity. We ex­pect to have the right to do what­ever we want when we want but then we think of re­spon­si­bil­ity only in terms of oth­ers.

For ex­am­ple, we want the right to de­cide how we treat our bodies and we may smoke our en­tire lives (de­spite the clear warn­ings of the dan­gers of the use of to­bacco prod­ucts). We, how­ever, in­sist on the right to de­cide for our­selves re­gard­ing their use, but then, when the con­se­quences come, sud­denly it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the to­bacco com­pa­nies to pay for our (dare I say it?) stu­pid­ity.

That’s one ex­am­ple. The list could go on and on. Hot cof­fee from McDon­ald’s, ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tions, a law­suit and all the re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on McDon­ald’s. Ap­par­ently it is our right to act mind­lessly without the worry of con­se­quences, and if the con­se­quences come, well, that is some­one else’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to make it right. Same con­cept of prime-sub mortgages, a mas­sive gov­ern­ment bailout, and a cel­e­bra­tion by one of those com­pa­nies re­ward­ing their top ex­ec­u­tives who in­sisted upon their rights without re­spon­si­bil­ity to a $400,000 plus visit to a spa, thanks to the tax-pay­ers of th­ese great United States.

The church is not im­mune. This same in­sis­tence of rights with the ra­bid re­sis­tance to re­spon­si­bil­ity is the bane of West­ern Chris­tian­ity to­day. So many pro­fessed be­liev­ers treat their faith like they treat the spare tire in their wheel com­part­ments: we know it is there for emer­gency pur­poses; we just hope we’ll never have to use it.

Now I am nei­ther a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I can pretty well pre­dict that nei­ther our na­tion nor our wit­ness can sur­vive this “rights without re­spon­si­bil­ity” phi­los­o­phy. Our first pres­i­dent, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton seemed to un­der­stand this. He said, “Of all the habits that lead to po­lit­i­cal pros­per­ity, re­li­gion and moral­ity are in­dis­pens­able sup­ports. In vain would men claim the tributes of pa­tri­o­tism who would work to de­stroy th­ese great pil­lars of hu­man hap­pi­ness.” He (as did all our found­ing fathers) rec­og­nized that free­dom (rights) can­not ex­ist without re­straint (re­spon­si­bil­ity).

Free­dom is never truly free. Some­one, some­where has to pay the price to pur­chase the free­dom we en­joy. This is true na­tion­ally and it is true spir­i­tu­ally. Na­tion­ally, the roles of honor re­mind us of the sac­ri­fices made; of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of men and women took to en­sure us to­day of the rights we en­joy. In my hum­ble opin­ion, to de­cry hu­man in­jus­tices around the world while at the same time re­fus­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity to do some­thing about it is the height of hypocrisy. Hu­man rights will never be won un­less some are will­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity to win them.

Spir­i­tu­ally the free­dom that Christ brings is only pos­si­ble be­cause of the sac­ri­fice Christ made. Free­dom is never truly free. In the case of sal­va­tion (that is, the for­give­ness of our sins and the im­par­ta­tion of Christ’s right­eous­ness upon those who ac­cept him as their per­sonal sav­ior) is free to us (see Eph­e­sians 2:8-9) but the cost was the shed blood of Christ upon the cross.

It is time we, both as a na­tion and as the church, wake up and smell the cof­fee. It is time we rec­og­nize that our rights are in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy un­less we once again as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity those rights bring. The Rev. William Go­hard re­minds us, “Free­dom is not the right to do what we want, but the power to do as we ought.”

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