Rights and Responsibilities

As Americans, we love our rights. We like to quote them. We enjoy living them.

It’s been that way from the beginning. To get the Constitution passed, our Founders even had to concurrently adopt the Bill of Rights.

The right to free speech, free press, bear arms, and a host of others are dear to us. We would fight – -and we have fought – -to preserve these freedoms. Each generation has stepped up, sent men and women into harm’s way, to ensure our freedoms are preserved.

But with a right also comes a responsibility. The right to free speech does not mean we can yell “Fire!” in a movie theater if there is no fire. The right to a free press does not mean falsehood can be published. The right to bear arms does not mean we can recklessly take the life of another.

In a sense rights are really privileges – ones many of us hold dear, while others take for granted.

As followers of Christ and Americans, we enjoy dual citizenship: we are citizens of both heaven and the United States. Both come with privileges and responsibilities. Do we take those seriously? What is the practical application of exercising both?

Psalm 33:12 says:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD….

I’ve often heard this quoted, as followers lament how America has fallen. We no longer follow God or the Christian principles on which we were founded, many say.

But who is the nation? Is it not the people making it up? All Americans are United States citizens, but not all United States citizens are also citizens of heaven. Only those with dual citizenship follow God and call Him LORD. How can we, as followers of Christ, expect unbelievers to behave as believers? The better question is: Do we behave as citizens of heaven? Do we do our part individually to live out Psalm 33:12? Is God Almighty the LORD of my life and yours?

As I listen to the news, read the headlines, and see the chasm growing wider between those who call Him Lord and those who don’t, the thought comes to me: It’s on us. We, as believers, bear the responsibility for what we see happening. Here are some challenging questions I’m wrestling with this Independence Day:

  • Does my life – my thoughts, words, attitudes, actions – reveal that God is the LORD?
  • Is anger and criticism my first response to legislation and legislators?
  • Do I pray for those in authority over me?
  • What have I done to promote dual citizenship – am I praying, sharing the gospel, loving on those who do not know Jesus?

When Benjamin Franklin stepped outside the Philadelphia courthouse during the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked, “What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin?”

His response: “A republic madam. If you can keep it.”

America is 241 years old today and that truth still rings true. Can we keep it? Can we continue to exist as a democratic republic? I believe that hinges on accepting the responsibilities that come with our rights.

And for those of us with dual citizenship, we have additional responsibilities. As we fly our flags, enjoy our fireworks, and grill our burgers today, let’s also be challenged to step up our commitment to behave like we believe: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

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4 Responses to Rights and Responsibilities

  1. Judy says:

    Loved this article and love you too.

  2. Mary Hanson says:

    Thanks for taking time to sit down & write out these thoughts. We are very blessed to have our citizenship in heaven. That’s our first priority, then be responsible to do what we can to be a good steward of our rights we have as Americans.

    Have a blessed Fourth of July, Laura!

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