We are very conscious of our rights. Students go strike for their rights so do factory workers, government staff and even in a family individuals insist on their rights, though they may not go for a sit-in.
Conflicts are bred when people insist on their rights. Two ships collided head on in the Black Sea killing hundreds of people in 1986. The reason for this tragedy was simple! Both captains insisted on their right of way and were not willing to yield! By the time they realized that they were on a collision path it was too late!
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister once reminded his people that there are no rights without duties! People who insist on their rights often ignore that they have duties to perform. Those who ignore that obligation have no claim on rights.
However, the Bible extends the correlation between rights and duties further than an issue of priority; that is the question of right first or duty first. In 1 Corinthians 9 Saint Paul illustrates through his own life that sometimes we will have to surrender our rights for the sake of our duties.
He had every right to travel with his wife on his missionary tours. We are not sure if he was married and a widower or he was never married. Whichever way it goes, he travelled without the company of a wife. However, that was not the practice Christian circles those days. Other Apostles took their wives on their trips (1 Corinthians 9:5). As a minister of the gospel there was nothing wrong in being rewarded for his service (1 Corinthians 9:6). That was the practice of the apostles and that was also supported by the scriptures (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). However, Paul did not insist on this right also. Rather he chose to work and earn his support so that he can preach free without burdening the people to whom ministered (Acts 18:2-3). He had many such rights but he did not insist on any of them.
At least two times he states that he did not insist on his rights (1 Corinthians 9:12, 15). Why did he not insist on his rights? His reason for forfeiting his rights is that it may hinder his duty of preaching the gospel. So for the sake of his duty he would rather give up his rights.
Sometimes, preachers may become such heavy weights that smaller people may not be able to come closer to them. In such scenarios the gospel suffers. Many times inisting on our rights we lose friends, opportunities for conversation and even opportunities for service. When forfeiting our rights for the sake of gospel we don’t lose anything but make great profits by winning souls for Christ.