MERIDIAN — “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” — John 15:13
This week, we have celebrated “Independence Day.” On July 4, 1776, our leaders presented the “Declaration of Independence.” This document includes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Two words frequently used regarding our society are, “Freedom,” and “Rights.” Note that these are two different concepts.
Freedom is the liberty to do whatever we wish without hindrance or control by others. I often hear, “I am 21 years old. I can do what I want to do.” That statement sounds great, but is it really correct? The answer is, “No, I must live within the bounds set by others.” We should respect others’ property. We should drive responsibly. We should honor life.
Rights are moral or legal entitlements that society has granted because they are considered honorable or just. Rights are freedoms granted with the awareness that other people are affected by what we do. We have a right to worship but must allow others to worship too. We have a right to vote, but must allow others the same right.
So, how should Christians view their freedom and rights on this weekend?
1. We should consider living the Christian life in America as a privilege. We should never take for granted the blessing we have to freely believe and practice our faith. At the time of this writing, the Christians of Iraq are facing extermination by extremists of another religion. Those oppressed would dream of the privilege we have this Sunday, to publicly go to the church of our choice.
2. We should realize living the Christian life in America is a responsibility. Our freedom is managed by the Christian virtue of “Loving my neighbor as myself.” We are reminded that to say we love God and hate our neighbor makes us a liar. We should be careful with the rights and freedom of others. If anyone should be sensitive to the impact our life has on others, it should be Christians. We should be known for our love, not our demand for selfishness.
3. We should realize living the Christian life in America must be vigilantly defended. Freedom is a fragile blessing that is easily destroyed. When others demand their rights, they need to allow the rights of others. Often, self-centeredness supersedes a sense of community. A good Christian is a good patriot and a good citizen. We should be helping the helpless and encouraging the hopeless. We should find our fulfillment in the blessing of others. We should heroically live an example that makes unity, not division, in our land.
On this weekend, why not celebrate what you have by giving it away? Freedom and Rights were always meant to be shared, not demanded.
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.