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As an American citizen, I am blessed to live in a country that recognizes I have rights. These rights are not credited to a system of government, but to God himself, and the state has promised not to revoke them. No matter who is in power, or what I have done, I retain these rights and the ability to exercise them, and to have any of them limited in any way takes a costly and complicated judicial process. Even if I lose, due to due process a portion of my rights, I still have protection under the law. My punishment cannot be cruel or unusual, and I retain rights to appeal, and even to protest. We must never cease to thank God for this system and do all we can to ensure its continuance.
Do we have rights in church? If the founding fathers gave credit to God for our rights within a secular community, should there not be rights for the people of God, in His House, in a Sacred community? Do church folk have a right to expect ….anything? In this country do we sign our rights away when we walk in the door of the church? Don’t think I am being silly, the first amendment guarantees free speech. How free is your speech in the average church? Can you disagree? Can you even question? Do you have rights if you are accused? Do pastors have rights? More rights? Less?
I propose a Bill of Rights to establish what may and may not be expected in church as far as intellectual freedom is concerned.
- Church shall make no rule infringing on the right to doubt. (Matt. 14:31) And immediately Jesus stretched forth [his] hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” This was said to Peter, and he even though his doubt was mentioned even by Jesus the Messiah, was of certain use to the Kingdom. Doubt itself needs prayed on and is the natural condition of man. Church should welcome, pray for, pray with and love doubters. Most of us at some point will get a turn.
- Church shall not abridge the right to disagree. While membership or participation in ordinances requires shared faith; open, honest variance of opinion is part of a free society. Church needs to be a place where debate can take place in Christian love. (Acts 15:39) ” And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;” This disagreement rendered neither unfit for service, and in fact was used by the Lord to further the Kingdom.
- The people have a right to bad days, even in church on a Sunday. (John 11:35) ” Jesus wept.” If the Savior allowed Himself emotion why do we feel a need to put on a plastic smile mask at Service? When the people are feeling low they should be most welcome at church, not avoid it because they can’t be as upbeat as their fellows.
- The right of the people to be secure in their persons, they shall have the right to say “NO” to committees and assignments. (1 Cr 7:23) ” You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” The Spirit that empowers and equips must also motivate; forced labor is often Spiritless labor and does not bear fruit.
- The process of Sanctification being ongoing, and incomplete for most if not all, the right to be wrong is not to be abridged for Pastor or Parishioner. Where there is repentance there should be forgiveness.(Matt 18:21) “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? ” We have no right to expect perfection in the Pulpit or the Pew, only in Christ.
- The people have the right of intellectual freedom, and may read, listen to, watch, attend, what they will. Some of these choices may be detrimental, but the value of freedom of the mind is so high that allowances must be made and the Holy Spirit trusted to do His work in pruning the branches of desire to conform to to the Vine of Christ. Legalism does not hurry sanctification, but hinder it by denying opportunity for discernment.( Phl 3:8)” Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,” It was the Holy spirit that changed Paul’s value system and caused him to put those things he formally valued in the septic tank. This right does not preclude loving condemnation of the acts that seem biblically improper, it precludes the condemnation of the person .
So what do you think? Is this fair? is it Biblical? Do you have additions? Disagrements?
Have you had instances where these rights were violated? Here at Willohroots, you have the Right to opine.
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