"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12
When our children were little, we taught them to respect the flag. When "Old Glory" passed by during a parade, we would rise in respect and put our hands over our hearts. During the National Anthem we actually knew and sang the words. Of course, there were others who did not.
Each of the children, at different times, asked, "Why is that football player talking during the anthem?" And lest I be condemned for picking on the NFL, in the previous sentence you can substitute athletes from almost any professional sports team. Yes, there were those who stood in respect and sang the anthem, but the camera always seemed to linger on the ones who didn't.
It appears things haven't changed much in recent years.
At the Olympics a gold-medal-winning gymnast didn't put her hand over her heart during the Anthem; a pro-football quarterback used the song to make a protest against our nation's unfair practices. Then, a school district in Leon County, Florida, sent home a permission slip which, when signed, allowed parents to excuse their children from the Pledge of Allegiance.
The reaction I get to those stories most often is "What is this country coming to?"
Only occasionally do I hear someone say something like "But when you have free speech, all of these people are within their rights." Even the school district in Florida was merely informing parents that they had the legal right to exempt their children from the Pledge.
Now there are two things that occur to me when I hear those things:
1. Neither our country, nor our churches are perfect. Any organization which is administered by sinners is going to have shortcomings and flaws. On the other hand, we need to take a look at the alternatives. Critics of America should examine those nations where freedom is a concept, but not a reality. Detractors of our churches ought to see the uncertainty of religions where Jesus has not provided forgiveness, peace and heaven.
2. Those self-appointed detractors of country and church ought to hear what St. Paul said to the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 6:12). The apostle told his fellow believers, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful."
It's true that in all of the cases I've mentioned, people were within their rights. But that doesn't mean that people should exercise those rights.
In country and congregation we need to ask, "If I do this, will I make things better or worse?" Those who want to use their rights need to find an answer to the question, "If I do this, will I be solving an old problem or creating a new one?"
Especially we who are of the family of faith need to remember how our Savior lived. So that we might be rescued from sin, death and devil, Jesus set aside His "rights" and allowed Himself to be crucified. Because of what He has done, we are forgiven and saved.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may my life as a Christian and as a citizen be centered on honoring the Christ rather than demanding all my own rights all of the time. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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