Summary: We live in nation of "rights" but if my rights conflict with yours we can end up in court, in a church split or in a family division. How do we avoid letting our desire to defend our rights to ruin our lives?
OPEN: I’m going to read from the words of an ancient document. When I’m finished I’m going to ask you what document these words are from (we put the words up on the screen and underlined the word “Rights” in the passage):
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 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….”
Does anyone know where these words come from? (the opening words to the “Declaration of Independence”)
Now I don’t know if you noticed, but the word “Rights” (as in “unalienable Rights”) began with the capital letter “R” (I underlined it for you). The fact that this word was capitalized indicates that our nation’s founders regarded this declaration of our “RIGHTS” to be highly important – and so they capitalized it!!
The United States of America is a NATION of RIGHTS. In fact, our nation’s founders saw fit to include additional document to Constitution. It’s called the “Bill Of Rights” and it listed 10 amendments declaring the rights of individuals and states in our nation. These rights are (theoretically) rights that neither the President nor the Congress, nor Court or Lawyers… can take away from us.
Among those RIGHTS (listed in the Bill Of Rights) are the rights to freedom of religion, of speech, of the press… and so on.
Now just in case they missed something, the founders put this as the 10th amendment “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
In other words – if the Constitution didn’t give a specific authority to the Federal Government, then the Federal Government did not have the right to claim that authority. If it did so… it would be violating the rights of the States or of Individuals. Our Nation’s Founders realized that unless they restricted the power of the Federal Govt. our elected officials might be tempted to run roughshod over folks and create a tyranny where people would be enslaved. Realizing this, they put a high premium on our individual RIGHTS.
So, this nation is a nation of RIGHTS. That’s how we were founded. And we should thank God every day that we were blessed by being born into a nation like this one.
But as much a blessing it is to live in a nation where our “RIGHTS” protected there can be a problem if YOUR rights conflict with MY rights (or vice versa). When your rights and my rights clash… then we have a problem! When that happens it too often leads to lawsuits, church splits, and even family divisions.
And we have a case study of that kind of conflict right here in the book of Mark:
“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’
And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’
Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’
And they said to him, ‘We are able.’
And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. Mark 10:35-41
Now, what’s the problem here? Why are the other disciples indignant at James and John?
Well, all the disciples believed Jesus was about to set up as an earthly Kingdom, and (of course as King) He would appoint people to serve as officials. They all presumed that important task would fall to them, as His close and trusted followers. Those who would sit at right and left hand seats were special positions of power and authority, and only the most trusted most important of those officials would be given that honor.