A couple things need to be said before I really get started on this article.
- I intentionally labelled this article, "On Christian Rights," instead of "On Human Rights," because I want to speak to people here who call themselves followers of Christ. I believe the message of the Gospel is for everyone who has ears to hear it, but I'm not naive enough to think people who don't define themselves as Christians will agree with me on any level. Heck, I doubt many Christians will agree with me. But I think it needs to be said. So here goes.
- I'm going to try hard not to specifically mention any of the main issues or hot buttons of our day, but rather bring this from the perspective of sola scriptura, which basically means that I use the Christian Bible as my source of truth and revelation, and the foundation upon which I build all of my theology. You can apply what I say here to those issues yourself if you feel so inclined.
On Christian Rights
There's a sentence that's been rolling around in my head and heart for several weeks. I haven't quite known what to do with it, because I know there's a big chance it will come off differently than I intend it to. That's the problem with social media. You can't hear my voice, see my face, or know my heart. I know, I know, we think we know people online because we can talk to them freely, but I think most intelligent, rational people can agree that what you see online is only a snapshot of what people want you to see. When I first started writing, my parents asked me why in the world I wanted to spread my "business" all over the internet. The answer is because I feel called to make a difference in the lives of people. And if there's one thing I know to be true, especially with mothers—the group I most often serve—it's that they don't want to hear anything I say if they don't think I understand and can identify with their lives.
I see this as a "comfort others with the comfort you've been given..." type of relationship, perhaps on a large scale, and I feel complete peace with it. But what my parents were failing to take into account was that for every juicy piece of information I carefully and prayerfully choose to share with you online there are 100 I don't. Intentionally. Afterall, my life isn't just mine. My words might be mine, but the ones I choose to write affect those closest to me because their lives intersect so deeply and closely with mine. I'm discerning, and I don't like to add to a conversation just for the sake of writing words. There's too much fluff on the internet today and I don't want to add to it unless I really feel my words can help.
So the sentence...here it is:
When Christians focus mainly, or even solely, on fighting for our own rights, I think we've missed the point of the Christian life.
Now maybe you can see why I feared misinterpretation?
I believe all humans, regardless of...well...anything...have value and worth and should be treated with respect. I believe that because they were created by God, in His image, and because He found mankind valuable enough to send His Son to die for us. If He loves the pinnacle of His creation that much, I should too.
I also believe all humans have a right to be spoken to and about with dignity, whether to their face or online. The Bible says it's God's kindness that brings us to repentance. Kindness, not hatred. We, and by that I mean Christians, have been dancing way too close to the hatred line when it comes to people who believe differently than we do. Kindness. Speaking the truth in love. These are the things that win people over.
I believe these things about all human life because it's the example God has set for me in His word. It's the way He loves mankind, and so I strive—failing often—to love mankind that way, too.
There's a piece of the equation I believe American Christians have completely forgotten. Maybe it's because we've lived so long in the land where personal rights reign supreme. We're used to having a voice, having free speech, and having the right to the pursuit of happiness. We might be tempted to look at those things and think they're consistent not only with America, but also with the Bible, while Christians in other countries look at them, flip the pages of their Bible, and go, "Hmmmmm. I don't see that here."
American Christians start a lot of sentences with, "You can't tell me..." or, "I have rights, too, you know!" or, "It isn't fair for you to treat me that way!"
I get it. I think at one time I've probably said those things myself. We undeniably live in a country where we have certain rights. We are, as Christians, undeniably losing those rights one by one just because we're Christians. It isn't fair. It possibly isn't what our founding fathers had in mind. We do need to fight for what's right in a way that brings glory to God. But when we remove our country of residence from the equation we realize that our theology has gotten wrapped up in our residence, and that our theology doesn't work on other soils. And if what we believe to be true about God doesn't work in China it doesn't work here. God never says in His word that these truths only apply to Americans. No, His truth applies to all people.
Here's what I'm getting at...
Jesus never asked us to come follow Him and have all our dreams come true. He never said, "Come, and I'll help you toward self-actualization...help you realize your potential. Give you equal pay. Fulfill your dreams." He didn't even say, "Come, let Me validate you and bring you happiness in this life."
What He really said was (or says is), "Come, and die."
I think we forget that these days...America is obsessed with getting what's rightfully theirs. Jesus calls the Christian—here or anywhere else—to lay down what's theirs and follow Him.
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
I want to repeat myself, because by now I think you're starting to doubt me: I believe all mankind has the right to be treated with respect, kindness, love, dignity, honor, and...dare I say it again...kindness. You and I both should be treated this way and treat others this way because God treats mankind this way. He is our foremost example of how to treat others. But God's treatment of and love for mankind can't be defined the same way as ours. His love always comes with truth. Our love sometimes feels enabling. His truth always comes with love. Our truth sometimes feels like hatred.
God's Word says, in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another," (emphasis mine).
These verses make two very important points:
- We are to love others just as He has loved us. This isn't a license to define love however we want. If there's anything clear about the bigger story the Bible gives us about who Jesus is it's that sometimes...often...love means denying ourselves. No, love isn't mushy gushy feelings. If you want to love like Jesus did, you'll have to die—physically or maybe just emotionally—to yourself and loving the way you want to and do it the way He did it instead.
- Jesus gives the world the right to judge us, whether we are true Christians or not, by the way we love. I daresay many of us have left people wondering where our allegiance lies of late.
In conclusion, I'll say this. Being a Christian isn't just about being forgiven of our sins. It IS that in every way, but it isn't only that. There is a life after baptism that bids us come and die. Baptism itself is an outward sign that the men and women we were before Christ are dead. We emerge from the water new creations who are committed to following Christ wherever He leads. If no one told you that's what's baptism meant...what the Christian life meant...I'm so sorry, but now you know. Don't believe me? Study the Bible and see for yourself.
In essence, we give up our rights to lead our own life, and submit them to Jesus in response to the way He gave up His rights for us. What that looks like in practice is slightly different for everyone. Jesus may call you to die to your dream of marriage and be a single missionary. He may call you to die to your dream of being a top executive so you can be the father your children need while they're young. He may call you to die to the big life in order to lead a simple, quiet life serving others and leading them to Him. Or maybe it will be the other way around. Maybe He'll call you to the stage in order to proclaim His Name to the masses when all you want is to go hide in the corner.
The older I get...the longer I walk on this earth...the more absolutely and unwaveringly convinced I become that the ONLY way to live a life that honors God and draws others to Him is to love Jesus.
Love Him first. Love Him most. Love Him best. Love Him hardest. Love Him more than I love myself, my husband, my children, my friends, my rights, my personality, my strengths, my personal desires, my feelings, my emotions, my joys, my heartbreaks, my challenges, or my sin.
Passionate pursuit of Jesus as the greatest love of my life, regardless of other loves, is the only way. Bringing Jesus to the world is what's worth fighting for. I'm afraid we're wasting time fighting for our rights.
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