Not About Our Rights

Here’s a needed reminder for American Christians: Neither Jesus nor his early followers were worried about their civil or inalienable rights they had. Instead they simply went about their business of kingdom living and they became a revolutionary movement among their world.

Not convinced? Don’t believe me? Ok. Here is one summation of the life Jesus lived:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. (NRSV)

By divine right Jesus was entitled to rule the world as Lord but gave up that right for the sake of the world. This was the life he chose to live and it became the life his followers learned to live. It was a life in which the first became the last (cf. Mk 9:35).

And us?

In America, we love their inalienable rights. But could we who follow Jesus let go of our concern for protecting and preserving our rights? It may come to a point where we have to decide whether we would rather have the American dream or see the gospel of Jesus flourish. In fact, we may have already reached that fork in the road where we must choose one or the other.

My friend Amy and her husband are Christians and American citizens. For the last year, they have been living in Switzerland for work purposes. Here is an observation Amy makes about the Swiss culture:

I live in probably the most free country on Earth. Swiss citizens enjoy almost every benefit imaginable through their legal system. This is truly a country of health and wealth. Every citizen has the right to bear arms, at the age of 65 they get a full pension, if a woman becomes a widow she is aided by the state to maintain her standard of living. Every citizen votes on every single issue (the ballots look like books), they have seven presidents, each representing each party. The tax system attracts large business which in turns brings wealth to the country. All citizens have health care, most enjoy a healthy lifestyle. The poor can receive help through foundations. Most citizens obey the law, there is very little crime, very little violence. They shut down business on Sunday and you don’t run your lawnmower or wash your car on that day. They have beautiful steeples built by mostly the Reformers, which are practically empty. They enjoy religious holidays that they really don’t understand. For the most part God doesn’t exist here. My guess is because the Way of the cross would be a threat to all that they enjoy. Let Him in and your going to have to rethink the way you do business and what you hold sacred. No wonder we need to reconsider what we treasure.

May we have the courage to et the same mindset of Christ be our mindset!

11 responses to “Not About Our Rights

  1. Michael Thomason

    It’s not our rights, it is the inalienable rights of the poor and oppressed for which Jesus was the champion

  2. Some have asked about Paul’s exercising of his rights as a Roman citizen in Acts 22:25, so here has been my reply… “Yes Paul took advantage of his rights as a Roman citizen to spread the gospel but that is not my point. While Paul took advantage of those rights, he didn’t fight, protest, and otherwise make it his life’s passion to preserve and protect those rights (nor did the rest of the early church. As for Jesus and the Jews, Israel believed that they were to rule through with God would rule from Mount Zion and vindicate Israel. Thus their expectation of a Messiah was one who would lead a political revolt against Rome rather than be crucified by Rome. That’s the point I am making. It has to do with letting go of our national concerns, including the preservation and protection of our rights afforded by the nation and instead becoming precisely occupied with the gospel.”

  3. Rex,

    I agree with your overall point and certainly that if it ultimately helped the gospel flourish,I should be willing to lay down my rights. But I also think you try too prove too much with your point that, “It has to do with letting go of our national concerns, including the preservation and protection of our rights afforded by the nation and instead becoming precisely occupied with the gospel.”
    You rightly point out the Apostle Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and he exercised his rights (by speaking up, i.e., defending those rights) he enjoyed under his Roman citizenship.

    In the same way, I believe we as Christians should exercise our “citizenship rights,” and give thanks to God for those rights. Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:1-2 also indicate that it is appropriate for Christians to pray that God will allow these citizenship rights to remain in effect. I also have no objections for Christians being involved in politics, running for office, voting, working in the political arena, serving in the military or law enforcement, make our government, nation, communities a better place.

    I don’t know about you, but I have no spiritual objection in my conscience to pledging my allegiance “to the flag of the United States of America. And I do so also fully aware and committed to the truth and reality that ultimately my “citizenship” is in heaven and loyalty is always first and foremost to God and His kingdom purposes. And whose to say that a person can’t serve God’s kingdom purposes by being involved in such areas of life. Who knows, maybe like with Esther, “who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Do you know Rex? Do I know? No, we don’t.

    So I love our country and am committed to the American ideals of liberty and justice for all. And I don’t think to feel or believe or speak up for that makes us somehow bad Christians that aren’t fully concerned about advancing the kingdom of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think you can have concerns about both matters but knowing and living with that one ultimate goal and purpose of spreading the gospel and kingdom of God first. Everything else comes secondary and serves that primary purpose.

    And I do believe that whether it was the Roman government of the early New Testament church, or any other government since then that the purpose of the church is to exalt the Kingdom of Christ independent of any earthly governmental system.

    The purpose of the church is to draw people into the transcendent government of Christ, not to transform the mundane governments of men. However, Rex, I believe we must find “balance.” Don’t go to extremes my friend. I believe that Christians and the church can have an influence upon the government—it can and it should (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-2 where we are told to pray for government leaders as an influence for godliness). It is to say however, that the church has a higher calling that is both spiritual and eternal (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 4:18).
    I think we are both dedicated to that end my friend!
    Robert Prater

    • I think you’re assuming too much or reading too much into what I’m saying. I never said and don’t believe their is anything wrong with Christians exercising their rights and being involved in politics and government. There is a big difference between exercising a right already given to us and fighting to protect that right when we think it is being threatened in some way. The later is the point I am getting at. Even though Jesus was God…was Lord/King, he didn’t fight in any way to have that right acknowledged.

      In the original post, I quoted a comment that my friend Amy made on Facebook. What I left out was her encouragement for me to keep speaking this message for “America just may get what she wants.” Her point, I believe, is that the more American Christians become concerned about America (whether from the right or left) the more America is going to become like Switzerland, a country with all of the great “freedoms” and “blessings” of a wealthy government with a bunch of empty church buildings that symbolize a gospel faith that barely exists anymore.

  4. Our Declaration of Independence speaks of inalienable rights (endowed by the creator, who created all men equal): life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The U.S. has been most successful with the third “right”–the pursuit of happiness (the “good life” of the American Dream); as for the first two, we have a long history of delivering death (starting with native Americans) and limiting liberty (especially with African Americans).

    The O.T. prophets did speak for justice and mercy for the poor and oppressed, urging the rich and powerful to return to their covenant and reform their nation. When Jesus quotes Isa. 61 in Lk. 4, he seems to be taking up that prophetic task; but when Nazareth rejects him, he says no prophet is acceptable in his own country–and points to Elijah, who despite the many poor widows then, was sent only to a Gentile widow in Sidon. Indeed Jesus’ new international kingdom of disciples will be different from the kingdom of Israel: in Lk. 6 it is poor disciples who are blessed to be part of Jesus’ kingdom, and the rich are not; and it is oppressed disciples, persecuted for their loyalty to one king (Jesus), who are blessed with a great reward in heaven.

    What are American Christians pursuing? Individual happiness? National justice? Or the kingdom of God and its righteousness?

  5. OK. so we are not interested in our rights, but in servanthood….so, when we belly up to the bar of the State, what do we do? Do we leave the shapoing of law to the ‘snake’? Or do we attempt to shape law according to the truth in Christ- do we attempt to shape law to reward the ‘Good’ in some way, in line with Paul’s view of the State. Do we allow those who hate us shape the law so that persecution is institutionalized? So that the espousal of the traditional and Christian view of unborn life, and of marriage is criminalized….just because we are not interested in rights? Do we wish the teaching institutions that are shaped by politically inspired views of right and wrong to be formed by those who have an anthropology, sociology, spirituality, and even epistemology hostile to ours so that our children and grandchildren are inculcated with worldviews hostile to the truth in Christ, built on the pillar and ground of the truth which is the Church?
    I would suggest there are selfless reasons, and reasons based on responsibilities and not the pursuit of rights, that require us to be engaged in the shaping of the political and social culture, until such time that it is evident that we have been excluded and are personna non grata; then, we can serve God wittily in the tangle of our minds, and find our escape in the wildernesses that the Woman becrowned with the sun makes for us, until such time as our martyric crosses beckon….but till then, there are rearguard actions to be fought with spiritual weapons- prayer, truth-in-love speaking, cups of cold water giving, and demons expelling…Moses still needs to come down from the Mount, to be the schoolmaster to Christ, with thunders, and lightnings; and Jesus still needs to come, not quenching the smouldering wick, in the transfigurations on His Mount.

    I dunno, whadayahthink?

    • I don’t have any moral/ethical problem with Christians being involved in the government/politics. But that doesn’t mean that our objective is self-focused, which seems to be the case in much of politics these days.

      • Rex I do agree with much of your concern here about Christians only be obsessed with their “right” as Americans as opposed to kingdom values and priorities which does include self-sacrifice, etc.

        But you can’t make the point that you don’t have a problem with Christians being invoked with politics or government so long as they only exercise a given right already but nit fighting or defending those rights when threatened! That’s crazy! I elect politicans and if you are an elected politian or in law enforcement, you swear to defend and protect those rights! So your inconsistent there.

        Now if you want to argue about how a politian should conduct himself in defending those rights, etc. And working to ensure that liberty and justice are given to all / poor, women, minorities, etc. and even help change our laws to better reflect kingdom values of God that’s another discussion!

        And whatever job your have secular or government of course your first priority and focus are kingdom matters and Christian values.

        Buy please dont say Christians can be in politics as long as they don’t work or fight to preserve or protect or fight for those rights! That’s absurd and defeats the whole purpose for that’s the primary reason they are there in the first place:)lol!

        Happy birthday also brother:)!

        Robert Prater

  6. Pingback: Captives of Christ | Kingdom Seeking

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