Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rights and the Christian: The rights that Paul claimed

Paul, the apostle, both stated his rights and claimed them. Some rights he gave up voluntarily because he was able to provide for himself. Here is what he says,
    This is my defence to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?
Here Paul argues that an apostle has the right to food and drink and to travel with a wife. These rights are based not only on human calculation, but also on the law of Moses,
    Do I say these things as a human? or doesn't the law say the same? 1 Cor. 9:8
In 1 Cor. 7 Paul makes it clear that both husband and wife have the right to physical intercourse with a spouse. Therefore, an apostle has the right to food, drink, companionship and sexual intercourse. These things are seen a human rights, not only rights declared by God in the law but rights that we are also aware of as humans.

Paul does not use all of his rights but he is careful to lrefer to them nonetheless. In Acts 22:25 Paul also claims his legal rights as a Roman citizen.
    And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
Paul establishes three foundations as a basis for rights - our humanity, the law of Moses and the civil law. He claims the right to eat, drink, have a sexual partner, be reimbursed for his work and not to be beaten unless he is condemned of a crime.

Now here is that horrifying passage in 1 Peter 2,
    19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
I don't think that there is any suggestion that it is wrong to demand the right to be treated properly. Unfortunately the scriptures do not spell out the rights of slaves to eat, drink, get married, have a sexual partner, raise their children and not be beaten.

We see that basic human rights are in view. There is nothing wrong with demanding basic human rights within the civil law. But there is little about expanding these rights to those who don't have them.


Gem said...

There are passages about expanding those rights to those who don't have them:

5Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.


1 Cor 7:21
Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

and, despite all the handwringing one hears in some quarters of Christendom about "the evils of feminism", I see progress in the world since the days when Peter wrote that. Slavery is not as popular, and women have rights and freedom under the law (in western countries anyway).

1 Peter 2:13-14 clearly teaches submission to the ordinances of man, and the ordinances these days in the US and Canada make it a CRIME to abuse, therefore for any citizen of these countries to tolerate or condone abuse is clear disobedience to the teaching of 1 Peter 2:13-14. Abuse should be reported immediately to authorities who are responsible for enforcing the laws of the land.

1 Peter 2:13-14 13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

Rod said...

Thank Suzanne for this post.

Donald Johnson said...

A big one is 1 Cor 11:10, a woman has authority (rights) about what is on her head.