Our Rights – Our Responsibilities

By Luther Blackmon

I must be getting old. I can remember when students in school had no rights at all hardly except to do what they were told. The teachers ran the school and were backed up by the parents. There were no “sit-in” demonstrations and “protest marches” on the “campus.” There were no bearded beatniks and long-haired “intellectuals” (?) around then to inform the students of their rights in the matter of free speech. There were no television cameras to catch and reflect the physiognomy of the loudmouthed agitators who stand before the microphones with all the poise and dignity of a goat looking through a new gate (except for the brilliant look on the goats face). My! I just dont know what kept this old nation from falling apart in those dark days.

But with a few old fogies like Wm. McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft (I really dont remember those fellows) and Woodrow Wilson, we managed somehow to pull through with all our rights intact. But there was something lacking. There were not 3,000,000 mothers with children less than six years old then who worked and let someone else take care of the children, and 5,000,000 with children over six who worked. There were not a million youngsters between 16 and 25 unemployed, most of whom were dropouts. Seventy-five million 15 years old and over who drank alcohol, and an average of one out of sixteen becoming an alcoholic. There wasnt much in the way of girls dropping out of school to get married in a hurry, like now when it is reported the 85% of the girls that drop out of school to get married are in trouble. Readers Digest reports that the illegitimacy rate is up 60% in the past 25 years. Things were dull then, in the estimation of our modern “swingers.” But Ill let you in on a secret. I know some who would be glad to surrender some of their “rights” for a chance to live their lives over. There are three things indispensably necessary to happiness: 1. Love (to love and be loved.) 2. Self respect. 3. Peace of mind. You cant buy these, and they dont come in bottles and are not found in night clubs and motels.

But the youngsters are not so much to blame as their elders. People are the products very largely of their training and the environment in which they grow up. But young people and a lot of the older ones need to be made to understand that with every right comes corresponding responsibilities. I want my rights. But my rights do not include the privilege of neglecting my responsibilities or hurting others. The chief of police in a large American city expressed deep concern over the fact that the sympathy of the public is more on the side of the criminal than the victim. The sadistic murderer and rapist have the right to a fair trial. But we might remember that his victim had also rights. I strongly believe that a person has the right to be employed without regard to the color of his skin, his ethnic background. But he also has the responsibility to be qualified for the job. The workman has a right to a fair wage. He also has the responsibility of giving an honest days work. I have heard brethren speak of the companies that provide their livelihood as though they were their bitterest enemies.

I have known members of the church who wanted to walk on the very edge of the world of sin, even to engaging in things everyone recognizes as sinful, but who wanted to retain the respect and fellowship of other Christians. They may think it is their “business” what they do, but they must remember that it is my business, which I associate with. We might have the constitutional right not to bathe, but we shouldnt feel hurt if people exercise their right to shun us. I knew a member of the church who tried very bard to hurt my influence as a preacher because I refused to have anything do with him. He was guilty of the grossest kind of sins and showed no sign of repentance. I exercised my “responsibility” to refuse to hive anything to do with him. Eph. 5: 11; I Co. 5; 11; 2 Thess. 3:6. If you keep your ear to the ground you will soon discover that the people who yell the loudest about their rights, care the least about their responsibilities.

August 31, 1972