We pointed out that Luther had a table of duties, not rights. My Father always talked of responsibilities not rights. The Old Testament is a record of God trying to get His chosen people to understand that because of His grace they had responsibilities to Him and to their neighbors. They were to be a “light to the nations”. The marvelous message of responsibility from of Micah, “7Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do mercy, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” is instructive. Compassion and charity, mercy and grace are signal words in the Old Testament and Jesus fulfills them in His person.
“Matthew’s comment on the compassionate ministry of Jesus is his quotation of Is. 53:4 “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” He thereby evoked the picture of the Servant of the LORD of whom the prophet had spoken, that Servant who goes the downward way of quiet and selfless ministration for the broken and despairing into a vicarious and atoning death for the sins of the many. What had been spoken by the prophet, Matthew saw fulfilled not only in the sufferings and death of Jesus but also in His ministry of healing and restoration. And rightly so; for Jesus was in His mighty deeds completely the selfless Messianic Helper and Giver; He never used His authority and power to serve Himself, to assert Himself, to advance Himself, or to protect Himself. (Martin Franzmann, “Follow Me” . CPH )
The early church tried to emulate their Lord. Though tainted by sin their concern for others and the individual Christians self giving sacrifices were noted by the powers that be. A Roman official was reported to say that where Rome held sway there was poverty, and begging, and suffering, and filth, but where the pagans were numerous, meaning Christians, the poor and sick and needy were cared for.
The political classes noted that here was a group of people that held there to be no authority except from God; who had no allegiance for earthly rulers except what they owed them because God created them for the control of evil; who trusted one who promised to bring them to an eternal Kingdom to the point that they cared not for the things of this world and would impoverish themselves for others. They noted these Christians going to their deaths with hymns on their lips and they were afraid.
Confronted with other worldly people who nevertheless sought to bless the world, the powers that be set about to change and ultimately usurp the One that these people followed. They did it in a way that was surprising. They decided to emphasize “rights”.
It is precisely because we have rights that we are lorded over and controlled by a political class. We will show how later.