Jul 17 - I've Got My Rights

I've Got My rights

July 14, 2016

Galations 5:13-15

 

I’VE GOT MY RIGHTS!

July 17th, 2016

Galatians 5:13-15

 

13 My brothers, you were called to be free (from the Mosaic Law).  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.  Rather, serve one another in love.

14 The entire (Mosaic) Law is summed up in a single command [lit. one word]:  “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18). 

15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed (or: killed) by each other.

 

A little boy in Victoria wanted $ 100 for Christmas and prayed for weeks, but he didn’t get anything.  Then he decided to write God a letter requesting the $100.00.
When the Canadian postal authorities received the letter to God, they decided to send it to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The letter actually made it to Justin Trudeau, who was so amused by the letter that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $ 20 bill.
The Prime Minster thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy.
The little boy was delighted with the $ 20 bill and wrote a thank-you note to God:
Dear God: Thank you so very much for sending the money.  However, I noticed that you must have sent it through the Revenue Canada Office and those turkeys deducted $ 80 in taxes. 

[Show filter for air exchanger]. 

 

Some of you have furnaces or air exchangers, and maybe you haven’t changed the filter for a long time.  If you haven’t, it’s probably dark grey and clogged up with dust.  Maybe the last time you changed them is so long ago, you can’t even remember.

 

Our minds have filters as well.  Often we hear something and our minds filter and misinterpret what is being said.  [For example, sometimes I have someone come up to me and say, “I was in church on Sunday and I heard you say this and that.”  And I scratch my head and think to myself, “I can’t remember saying that.”  Sometimes we may misinterpret the things we hear. ]

 

At other times we hear things we want to hear and we don’t hear the things that we don’t want to hear.  

 

Or we may think that what we are hearing applies to someone else and fail to recognize that it also applies to ourselves.  When we elbow our spouse and say, “Are you listening to this, dear?

 

Another filter we possess is our “political filter.”  [We chose our party of choice based on election platforms and promises, on what we have been told, on a politician we like, and on our own set of beliefs regarding what is right and just.]

 

And while my message this morning will be political to some degree, I do not want you to think that I am commenting either positively or negatively about any political party, regardless of whether it is the NDP, Conservatives, Liberals, or Green Party. 

 

With regard to this sermon, I honestly do not care who you voted for, who you prefer, or whether you lean to the right or the left of the political spectrum. 

 

So I do NOT want to dissuade you from NOR encourage you toward one particular party or persuasion.  So you need to remove your political filter and set it aside so you do not misinterpret what I am saying.  After the sermon you can put your particular political filter on again.

 

By the way, another filter that interacts with all of our other filters, including our political one, is the so-called “black and white, I’m always right” filter.  This is one so deeply entrenched in some people that it prohibits them from seeing a situation from another’s point of view. 

 

As you can tell by the opening overhead slide, we are talking about the rights and freedoms that we enjoy as Canadians, in particular those which are enshrined in two documents.

 

The Canadian Bill of Rights was authored and instituted in 1960 by then prime-minister John Diefenbaker.  It was the first expression of human rights laws for the whole of Canada. 

 

The Canadian Bill of Rights was more or less replaced by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the result of the efforts of the then prime-minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.  This Charter of Rights and Freedoms is modelled to a degree on the American Bill of Rights contained in the US Constitution (1791), but it also differs significantly from it.[1]

 

In the Charter from 1982, first mentioned are the so-called fundamental freedoms.  These are …

 

The freedom of conscience,

The freedom of religion,

The freedom of thought,

The freedom of belief,

The freedom of expression,

The freedom of the press,

The freedom of peaceful assembly, and

The freedom of association.

 

Also contained in the document are the so-called individual rights. They include, but are not limited to, such things as:

 

The right to life, freedom, and security (not happiness as in the US constitution).

The right to vote.

The right to legal counsel and the presumption of innocence.

The right to be treated equally in a court of law.

The right to be treated with equality regardless of gender.

The right to run religious schools.

The right to aboriginal land claims.

A host of French language rights.

 

In fact, one could say that the reason why so many French language rights were enshrined in the Charter is because this was one of the major concerns of Pierre Trudeau

 

One example of the French language rights, would be the right of French speaking Canadians to receive government and educational service in their own language regardless of where they are in Canada

 

If the Charter was written today, we might want to add some additional rights that really weren’t up for discussion in the early 1980’s. 

 

For example, I could really go for the right to free WiFi everywhere in Canada.  I don’t think that would cost the government a cent.  Also, not found in the Charter is the right to a reasonably priced post high-school education – which, in my estimation, would be great … and which is the norm in some European countries. 

 

I would also love to have enshrined in the Charter what we actually do enjoy when we compare ourselves to Europe or the US … universal and free or reasonably priced health care.   So, if the Charter was written today, it may look quite different.

 

Since the introduction of the Charter, some things have fundamentally changed in Canadian society.   I remember a time prior to the Charter when most individuals would voluntarily limit their personal rights based on the fact that their actions would hurt others, or would be deleterious to society, would be blatantly unjust, or would encourage crime

 

However, that kind of mentality is found less and less.  Nowadays many Canadians think that the Charter allows them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want … as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others under the Charter.  And this has not been a good thing for our society. 

 

Parents know that when you give children rights and freedoms, but do not couple these with responsibility, things almost always go wrong. 

 

Maybe there was a time when you were a teenager and you had your right to drive the family car revoked.  Maybe you came home at some ungodly hour, or you had the car impounded because of a DUI.  Maybe you drove too fast and received a ticked, or worse, caused an accident.  Because you proved to be irresponsible as a driver, your parents made sure there were consequences to your actions. 

 

Or maybe there was a time when your parents removed the door from your bedroom because you kept slamming it in defiance.  Your right to privacy was revoked as a consequence of your behaviour. 

 

In a nation, where there are freedoms and rights, without responsibility for social order and the well-being of others, there will be a profound decline in courteous and ethical behaviour. 

 

Put more bluntly, there is not a single place in the Bill of Rights and the current Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that mentions Social Responsibility as a guideline for the exercise of our rights and freedoms.  It focuses more on individual rights and the rights of corporations, but does not focus on social rights.  Why is that?

 

I think there are a number of reasons for this.  Back in the late 1950’s, when Diefenbaker, a Baptist from Saskatoon, wrote the Bill of Rights, he assumed that the Canadian people had an innate moral compass.  He assumed that they had a social conscience and were concerned for others; that they had an inner imperative to take care of others. 

 

Diefenbaker also assumed, that Canadians by and large possessed a divine and ethical moral compass that would go above and beyond their personal desires and preferences.   The combination of these two, the internal compass as well as the divine compass, would guide everyone into acting out their rights and freedoms in a responsible way. 

 

With regard to the divine moral compass, there was the generally held view that people were accountable to God for the way that they applied their rights.

 

This becomes very obvious in the preamble to his Bill of Rights:

 

The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;

Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;

 

In other words, God, human worth, and family, as well as moral and spiritual values, and the Law, need to be considered in the use of the freedoms, not simply the rule of law, since God is supreme and will hold us accountable.

 

In 1983, most of those who penned the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, neither denied the existence of God or the possibility of a moral conscience, however, they were by and large much more concerned that the choice of an individual could be based on that person’s personal preferences.  There wasn’t the same concern for an external ethical guardrail found in the will of God, or an internal moral guardrail found in the personal conscience with regard to social issues. 

 

While some conservative politicians on the joint committee insisted that the preamble to the Charter contain the words,

 

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law …”,

 

this was little more than a polite nod to the existence of God rather than a reference to keeping the freedoms of Canadians within the bounds of God’s ethical will. 

 

Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who attended church and believed in the existence of God, never-the-less thought it strange that other politicians wanted a reference to God in the Charter, and commented at one point that God Himself wouldn’t care one iota if he’s mentioned in it.    

 

More importantly, section 2.2 of the Charter on freedom of thought and belief, directly contradicts and sets aside God’s supremacy for the interpretation or application of the Charter.  Individual rights, have trumped God and the necessity for a social conscience. 

 

So when my rights compete with your rights, who’s to say who IS right?  Well, as it has been aptly said, “when rights collide, the courts decide.

 

And that means that judges, especially those on the Supreme Court of Canada, decide how to interpret and apply the rights and freedoms listed in the Charter.  All of the following decision were made by the Supreme Court Judges based on the Charter:

 

Abortion on demand is protected under the Charter, as are same-sex marriages.

 

Quebec has the right to limit or forbid English language on signs in that province. 

 

The government of Canada is responsible for growing and providing pot for medical purposes.

 

On the issue of senate reform, the Supreme Court judges decided that the level of consent among the provincial legislatures has to be extremely high.  The practical outcome of that decision is that it put an end to any attempt by any federal government to bring about meaningful change to the senate.

 

Tobacco companies have the right to advertise their products publicly.

 

Criminals have the right to vote, no matter what kind of crime they had committed.

 

Physician assisted suicide is legal.

 

Prostitution and brothels are legal.

 

Polygamy is not a right that is protected under the Charter. 

 

Freedom OF religion is also interpreted by the judges to mean “freedom FROM religion,” which has been applied in different ways in different provinces. 

 

For example in BC, any Christian words, or nativity scenes, or carols are officially forbidden from all public facilities and functions– including the word Christmas. 

 

In Quebec, Christian parents are not allowed to keep their children from attending a secular “ethics and religions culture” class, which they feel unfairly indoctrinates their children against belief in God.    

 

Juvenile criminals have the right to have their names not mentioned publicly by the press, no matter how heinous the crime is they committed.   

 

The definition of the right against self-incrimination was raised to a whole new level, creating a host of new loopholes to have chargers dismissed on technicalities. 

 

Disruptive behaviour during a strike is protected under the right to peaceful assembly. 

 

Now keep in mind that the judges of the Supreme Court are not responsible to you and I, the electorate.  Nor are they responsible to the government.  In fact, while the government can make all the laws it wants, the judges decide whether or not that law can be applied.

 

In other words, individuals who are neither elected nor accountable are setting the whole direction of Canadian society.  They are in fact defining Canadian culture and values.  And to my mind, this begs the question whether or not they are best qualified to do so

 

The reality is, that their interpretations and decisions reflect, at least to some extent, their own preference and their own ethical and moral compass.  So what will be the outcome for Canadian society if a judge has a compromised moral compass? 

 

For example, because judges expand the rights of criminals to the point that they trump the rights of the victims, and make it increasingly difficult for the police to protect society from criminals, I think that Canadians by and large have lost faith in the so-called justice system to bring about justice in many cases.   

 

But there is a second problem with the current system. Morality is now defined by law.  If it is legal, then it is right and morally OK

 

This is the reason why the Charter itself or its interpretation and application by judges will often not inspire us to behave morally or ethically. 

 

For example, our courts do not inspire us to be faithful to our spouse.  Their judgments by and large don’t inspire us to be kind or gentle or courteous or considerate when we interact with others. 

 

Instead, if anything, we are motivated to be as selfish and inconsiderate as we can be … because that is our right, protected under the Charter.  The Charter allows us to follow our natural inclination to use our rights and freedoms for our own benefit or pleasure, even to the detriment of ourselves or others. 

 

So society is becoming increasingly uncaring and rude … the result of permanently disconnecting from the Charter and our legal system social responsibilities or ethical absolutes. 

 

The reality is that Canada will never go back to pre-1982.  Ever.  That train has left the station. 

 

Now please don’t get me wrong.  Even if it were possible to go back, while Canadian society will be a gentler and more considerate place - given human nature, I don’t think that universal moral behaviour can be legislated successfully - ever. 

 

However, that does not keep me from hoping and praying that some kind of social contract would be incorporated in the Charter sometime in the future.  And that restrictions will be placed on individual and corporate rights and freedoms based on a serious concern for others.

 

Nor do I envision a theocratic society on earth, as many Muslims want to institute.  In fact, I am not interested to force Christian beliefs or agendas on others through either the political or judicial processes. 

 

What I am hoping and praying for is that Christians model with their lives what it means to love God supremely and others in a seriously selfless way … that believers are truly what Jesus called “salt and light” in our society.

 

Jesus proclaimed Leviticus 19:18 to be one of the two most important commandments found in the whole of the Bible.  Love your neighbour as yourself.” 

 

Paul himself echoes this sentiment in the passage I want us to look at today, as well as in his letter to the believers in Rome:

 

The entire Law is summed up in a single command“Love your neighbour as yourself.”            Galatians 5:14 

 

… whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

                                                                        Romans 13:8

 

The kind of love that Jesus and Paul have in mind, is not some mushy or warm feeling that we have for another person.  In fact, it has little to do with feelings, since Jesus told us to extend this love even to those who hate us.  No, this kind of love really speaks of loving action regardless of feelings. 

 

So what does loving one’s neighbour mean practically?

Jesus thought that it meant treating others in the same way that we would want to be treated:

 

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the Law and the prophets.                                                    Matthew 7:12

 

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

                                                                        Luke 6:21

 

When challenged to give an example of brotherly love, he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, a person despised by the Jews, who helps out a Jew at considerable loss of time and money.  Keep in mind that this Jews wouldn’t give a Samaritan the time of day, and would very likely declined to go out of his way if the Samaritan had been beaten, robbed and stripped. 

 

Paul himself tells us that when we fulfill the Law of Christ, that is, the Law to love our neighbour as ourselves, it arises from the ability to empathize with the plight of others to such an the extent that it will move us to helping them, showing them compassion and kindness when they have a need we have the ability to do something about. [2]

 

My brothers, you were called to be free (from the Mosaic Law).  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.  Rather, serve one another in love.   Galatians 5:13

 

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the Law of Christ.                                                      Galatians 6:2

 

In the first passage, some translations replace “flesh” with “sinful desires.”  This indicates that Paul is telling the Galatian believers that they are not to use their freedom from the Mosaic Law to fulfil their physical desires in a way that would go against God’s will … very similar to what we read in the preamble to the Canadian Bill of Rights. 

 

When we fulfill our passions selfishly, possibly in a way that is harmful to ourselves or to others, in a way that takes advantage of others or is damaging to our conscience and theirs. 

 

And sinful desires are not limited to sexual desires, but the to overeat, the desire to take revenge, the desire to dominate, the desire to manipulate, the desire to gossip, the desire to make ourselves look good, etc.

 

The implication for us is that, if we are believers,

we should NOT be asking the question, “How low can I go?” 

We should NOT be asking the question “What can I get away with and still get myself to heaven?” 

We should NOT be asking ourselves, “How can I use or leverage my rights and freedoms to my advantage?

 

And we should NOT believe in the formula, “once save, always saved,” because true faith ALWAYS leads to a better lifestyle. 

 

Genuine faith and right action are simply part and parcel of each other.  They cannot be separated. 

 

As Jesus said, we can find out if a person is good or bad by the way they conduct themselves (Matthew 7:15-20).[3]

So, if we are believers, we shouldn’t think that just because something is legal, that it’s OK with God. 

 

Sure, under the Charter we have the freedom NOT to serve others, NOT to carry the burdens of others, NOT to help out when it’s in our power to do so … but that doesn’t mean that this is proper and right in God’s eyes. 

 

When believers think about their rights and freedoms, they SHOULD ask themselves, “How can I use or leverage my rights and freedoms to benefit others?

 

For example, before getting married, if I’m a believer I should treat my girlfriend the way I hope that my sister will be treated by her boyfriend.  

 

After getting married I should treat my wife as I hope that my daughters will be treated by their husbands. 

 

In the same way, a wife should respond to her husband the way that she hopes her son will be treated by his wife. 

 

As a believer, I should treat my coworkers the way that I hope I would be treated by them.  I should treat my boss in the way I hope others will treat me someday when I am the boss.  I should treat the people who work for me the way I wish I had been treated by my boss.  

 

That was one of Jesus’ definitions of what it means to love others as ourselves:  “I will treat everyone in my life how I want to be treated if I was them (Matt 7:12)”.

 

Do you realize if everyone person in Canada actually did this, then we would hardly need any laws?  And our society would function drastically better.  What makes this impossible, however, is human nature, which often reverts to selfishness, pride, and vengeance.

 

[There are some drawbacks, however, to treating others as I would want to be treated.  Imagine when you get to a four way stop at the same time and everyone, and I mean everyone, wants the other person to go first.  “You go!”  “No, I can’t do that.  You go first!” Right?]

 

Let’s get back to Galatians 5:

 

14 The entire (Mosaic) Law is summed up in a single command[4]“Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18). 

 

I have already commented on Gal 5:14 being a reflection of Jesus’ own words.  In the book of James, we find something very similar, a verse which I have also included on the slide.[5]

 

But then Paul speaks about the opposite situation, when personal rights and freedoms are used to act capriciously and without any care for others.

 

15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

                                                                        Galatians 5:14-15

 

If the believers in Galatia don’t get this right, Paul tells them what’s going to happen.  If you forget that you are to use your rights and freedoms for the good of others; if you are just out to use your rights and freedoms selfishly; if you forget that you are called to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you, … let me tell you what this will look like: 

 

Well, that’s mine.”  “No, that’s mine.”  “Well I was here first.”  “I will get all that’s coming to me.”  “I’ll get an attorney.”  “I’ll get two attorneys.” “I’ll get a mean attorney.”  “I will get a mean female attorney.” 

 

So, IF this whole thing devolves into, “everyone out for himself”, you will become like a mean street dogs, fighting, biting and potentially killing and devouring each other.  You will end up harming each other, taking advantage of each other, tearing each other apart, damaging each other. 

 

One of the reasons for BREXIT, the vote for Great Britain to withdrawal from the European Union, was the fear of large number of refugees getting into England and taking away jobs, or in some way threatening the security of the country.  There was also a desire to be free from any obligations and responsibilities that come with being a member of the EU.

 

And there is some basis to this fear.  For example, there are terrorist who take advantage of the travel freedoms within the EU.  The attacks in Paris last November is but one example of this. 

 

The problem, however, is that the greater threat to any nation actually can come from within.  For one, migrants already in the country can be radicalized, like the truck driver who killed and injured all those people in Nice.

 

Secondly, in a society where everyone is out for themselves, the threat of violence also escalates.

 

A selfish and immoral use of ones rights and freedoms can and will damage the social cohesion of a culture or country.  In the quest for individual autonomy and freedoms and rights, no thought is given to the possible negative side-effects that behaviour might have on others.

 

Andy Stanley gives four guidelines as to how Christians should approach their rights and freedoms, and I think these are good enough to repeat:

 

  1. I will do what is just instead of what I can justify.

 

The question isn’t, “what can I get away with?”, but, “how can I help others?”.

 

Imagine a husband saying to his wife, “Hey honey, how can I help; how can I give you a hand?”  She might reply, “Who are you?  Who took over my husband’s body?” 

 

Or imagine a teenager saying, “Mom, what can I do to help?” or, “Dad, what can I do to help?”  This would be so surprising because at that stage of life it is usually “all about me, myself, and I”.    

 

  1. I will do what’s responsible, not what is permissible. 

 

If I’m not willing to take responsibility for an outcome of a decision, then I shouldn’t do it.  Because most often than not, someone has to pay when I’m irresponsibility. 

 

As an example, think about the national debt.  When I looked it up on Tuesday, it was at nearly $ 630 billion, with over $ 80.5 million being added to that amount daily (the picture on the overhead is when the debt was $ 5 billion less). 

 

Add to that the nearly $ 66 billion that BC is in arrears and the rate the province is accumulating more debt, and you can see that this is a massive problem.

 

We don’t even have balanced budgets in order that the debt won’t increase.  Imagine the day when there is no more room for the national debt to increase and all kinds of programs and subsidies will be cut and taxes increased dramatically.  Someone will end up paying the price for past, present and future fiscal irresponsibility.

 

Or think about the environment.  About 2,000 to 100,000 species of animals become extinct every year.  While most of these are insects, there is an alarming rate even among mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.  Biodiversity is constantly on the decline … almost entirely due to human behaviour, whether the destruction of the rainforest, pollution, hunting, and global warming. 

 

Coming generations will pay the price for the irresponsible behaviour of previous generations. 

 

That’s something we rarely hear people say, “That’s my responsibility.” 

 

  1. I will do what’s moral, not what’s modelled. 

 

We are already reaping the harvest of a society where people by and large say, “I will do whatever I want with whomever I want wherever I want as long as it’s legal so that I can’t be held accountable.”  Where there is a lack of conviction that ultimately such behaviour will have consequences on others and ourselves, things will go bad. 

 

And instead of modeling ourselves after the culture that surrounds us, we instead do what’s morally right – according to God’s definition. 

 

  1. I will honour God instead of indulging my every whim.

 

Whenever I need to make a decision, I can ask, “What would be most honouring to God?”  Most people know the answer to this question intuitively.  It becomes self-evident if given real thought. 

 

[Last year, 21 year old Dylann Roof entered a church in South Carolina, took part in a Bible study, and then massacred 9 church goers, shooting each multiple times for the simple reason that they were black. 

 

When he had to face the families of his victims, they responded by forgiving him and challenging him to give his life to Jesus. 

 

No law could require this kind of response.  We would have understood if the family swore at him and condemned him to hell.  The families did this, not because they are being good citizens, but because they were overwhelmed with God’s mercy toward themselves and so they extended that same mercy to someone who murdered those they loved the most.]

 

They were what the apostle Paul would have called “letters”, that is, something that other people could “read” the love of God in us and through us.

 

Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This "letter" is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on (your) human hearts.                                               2 Corinthians 3:3

 

God has called us to such a state.  God himself limited and leveraged his freedoms to help others, when he sent his son to earth who gave his life for my failures. 

 

IF, you and I call ourselves Christian, then I would like us to answer this question:

 

CAN ANYONE TELL FROM MY BEHAVIOUR THAT I AM “A LIVING LETTER” WHICH PROCLAIMS MY LOVE FOR GOD AND OTHERS?

IF NOT, WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

 

“You are writing a Gospel, 
A chapter each day,
By deeds that you do, 
By words that you say.

Men read what you write,
Whether faithless or true;
Say, what is the Gospel
According to you?”


― Paul Gilbert

 

"If you were arrested for being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to convict you"

 

 

[1] Although we do not have the right to bear arms.

[2] The apostle Paul writes that believers are no longer under the Law of Moses – in fact, that they died to it.  However, that does not mean that they are without a law completely.  In fact, Paul writes that we are under a new law, the law of Christ.  "The law of Christ" (ὁ νόμος τοῦ Χριστοῦ) is a Pauline phrase, found only in 1 Cor 9:21 and Gal 6:2.  The Law of Christ is called thus because Jesus placed so much emphasis on Lev 19:18, “love your neighbour as yourself.”

 

 

[3] Watch out for false prophets. … Every good tree will bear good fruit and every bad tree will bear bad fruit. … by their fruit you will recognize which one they are.  Matt 7:15-20

[4] Literally:  “one word.”  The Ten Commandments are called Asereth ha-D'bharîm in the Mosaic Law; Asereth ha-Dibroth in Rabbinic literature.  Both mean “ten words”.

[5]If you really obey the Law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourselves,’  then you are doing what is right.”