1Corinthians 10:29 “Why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?”
We are living in a time when we have two very opposing views of American society. The secular view holds that the rights of individuals come from government. The Judeo-Christian view holds to the Constitution’s directive that individual rights are “inalienable” – they derive from God – and cannot be taken away by government. This is the view of the Founding Fathers, and is embodied in an individual’s right of conscience to not only freely speak their views but also respect and tolerate opposing views of others.
Our verse this week is only one of several examples of the origin of our Founding Father’s Founders conviction that an individual’s right of conscience is sacred and must be protected. The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Corinth, Greece, explains that a follower of Jesus Christ must first and foremost put another person’s well-being before their own. To do this, I must be willing to tolerate another person’s choices without compromising on my own. This is Paul’s point in verse 33, when he says “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God”. We are to honor free speech, free thought.
Honoring one another’s right to conscience originated from Christianity’s central figure – Jesus Christ. As one of our founders, John Quincy Adams, said: “Jesus Christ. . . . came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free.” Stephen Cowell, a legal writer during America’s early days, echoed Adams’ sentiments: “Nonconformity, dissent, free inquiry, individual conviction, mental independence, are forever consecrated by the religion of the New Testament.”
But even after the overwhelming acceptance of the Constitution, the states still worried that there wasn’t enough protection against a centralized government controlling the rights of its citizens. So, in September 1789, Madison introduced the Bill of Rights, which became the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Why did Madison call them the “Bill of Rights”? They aren’t the rights of government over your life. They detail your inalienable rights and liberties promised from the God of the Bible that no government can take away. You could call them the “Bill of Government No rights”. Here are a few – they are worth reviewing.
Amendment 1 = Freedom of Religion, Speech and the Press: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This is your God-given right of conscience. It is not a coincidence that it’s the first right.
Amendment 2 = The Right to Bear Arms: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Amendment 4 = Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”
Amendment 5 = Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty and Property: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
Amendment 6 = Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime was committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of defense counsel.”
As we watch some of these foundational rights being violated (such as on our college campuses, where the right to free speech is under attack; or in political and media rhetoric, where the right to bear arms is under attack), we must reacquaint ourselves with the Bill of Rights, which originated from the Bible’s notion that all people have God-given freedoms no government can ever take from us.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #264