I have heard a lot of talk recently about “rights” in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. “What about our right to assemble for worship?” people ask, as stay-at-home orders force us to conduct church services virtually. “Why do I have to wear a mask? Don’t I have the right to make decisions about my own health?” People have balked at orders to stay home, to socially distance, to wear masks.
Before all the pandemic stuff started, people frequently discussed other rights. “What about my right to keep and bear arms?” and so on.
Now I believe in the right of religious assembly, the right of personal autonomy in health decisions and the right to own firearms. But those are legal rights, not necessarily Christian rights. As a Christian, I may be afforded certain rights by my country’s laws. But those rights aren’t on the same level as God’s will.
In fact, Christians are often called to surrender their rights for the sake of others.
I look at it this way. In Philippians 2, Paul writes,“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself”.
Jesus has the right as God’s Son to be considered equal to God Himself. If Jesus, for the sake of the world, can obediently give up that right and empty Himself, why can’t I?
I believe in my right to own a gun, but if the general welfare of society requires that we restrict that right to keep weapons away from those who abuse them, as a Christian, I am called to give up my right for the sake of others. I believe in my right to worship, but if love for my neighbors demands social distancing, I am called to give up my right in order to serve others.
If I have the right to make decisions about my own health by wearing or not wearing a mask, but love for those vulnerable to illness demands wearing a mask, then I’ll wear a mask, whether I like it or not. And if it takes governmental pressure or laws to get me to sacrifice for others, then shame on me.
A Christian should always be ready and willing to sacrifice their rights for the good of others. Jesus was.
Editor’s note: Troy Wade is a third-year graduate student pursuing a master’s of New Testament at ACU’s Graduate School of Theology. Wade previously majored in English at Angelo State University and is currently the Youth Minister at the Albany Church of Christ in Albany.