Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

Another uproar. Another point of division in a divided country. Another debate about free speech.

The gifted, diverse cast of a Broadway play exercised their right to free speech by making a political appeal to a VIP in the audience.

Supporters of the cast affirmed their right of free speech. Supporters of the VIP expressed outrage that his right to enjoy purchased entertainment had been violated. Both are partially right and partially wrong.

There’s a larger issue here than that of defending our rights.

We’re big on rights in this country. We demand that the government protect those rights. And it seems our society is in the process of identifying new rights on an almost daily basis.

But just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we ought do it.

Legal isn’t always the same as moral.

And just because I can doesn’t mean I should.Just because I can doesn't mean I should

The New Testament speaks little about our rights, except to say Christians are to sacrifice them. One of the marks of a Christian is to put others’ rights ahead of our own. To prioritize their needs above ours. To extend forgiveness when it’s undeserved and to withhold criticism and condemnation even when it is deserved.

This perspective doesn’t fit our culture’s obsession with having rights and being right. And it certainly doesn’t seem appropriate in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.

Yet, for 2,000 years, to be a Christian usually meant being out of step with the prevailing culture. We cannot simultaneously reflect Christ and fit into the world. Jesus said His followers are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16). There’s a difference. And when we fail to live out that difference, we fail to reflect Christ.

So the next time you and I are furious because our rights have been trampled, consider whether fighting for our rights results in failing to live for Christ. Do we need to say everything we have a right to say? Do we need to do everything we have a right to do?

What about extending forgiveness and grace?

How does humility and mercy fit in?

Might it be the very moment we give up demanding our right to something is the moment people actually see Christ in us?

Now that would be something to be truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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