We have the right to freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to keep and bear arms. We have civil rights, women's rights and human rights. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These rights are all good things.
The problem comes when we put our rights above Christ.
This is what happened to the church in Corinth. All through the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul is trying to convince the church to give up the "rights" found in the Greco- Roman culture for life in Christ. In the Greco- Roman culture sexual immorality was allowed, some considered it a right of passage for young men to engage is sexual activity with a prostitute (1 Cor 6: 12-20). It was someone's right to seek litigation if they had endured hardship at anothers expense (1 Cor 6:1-8). It was someone's right to dine in an idol's temple or eat meat sacrificed to that idol if one's place in society deemed it so (1 Cor 8:1- 13). Paul points out in chapter 9 that he too has rights, rights as an apostle. Rights he has willingly given up in order to further the gospel message.
We all have rights, and rights are good. But sometimes our rights are simply not right. Sometimes, we pursue our rights to the detriment of others. We work hard for our money and it is OUR money. We have the right to do what we want with it, buy what we want, and we shouldn't have to share. Meanwhile our neighbor goes hungry. It may be our right to to hoard our wealth, but it is not right.
We have the right to pursue our own happiness. We deserve to be happy just as much as the next person, but when our happiness comes at the expense of others our right is not right.
We have the right to say what we want, watch what we want, do what we want. But when those rights cause pain to others, cause others to stumble or degrade the name of Christ, our rights are not right.
Christ had rights too. As Philippians 2:6--8 points out, he was the very nature of God, equal to him in every way. Yet he willingly gave up this right and humbled himself, becoming a servant, obedient even to death on a cross. He had the right to be worshipped, it was his right! Yet he willingly let that right go so that he might save you and me.
That is the life we are called to live. That is the life Paul wanted the Corinthians to live. We have a lot of rights, and those rights are good. But they are not always right. Sometimes we must give up our rights in order to be right with God.