Thursday, June 27, 2013

Read me my rights!

As a citizen of the United States, I have been indoctrinated throughout my entire life with ideas about freedom, justiceequality and rights.These are fantastic concepts and I am extremely thankful to be born into a culture that practices them. However, they don't always parallel the reality of the Kingdom of God and they can sometimes get in the way of effectively serving the Lord of our lives.

Imagine if the early church had considered freedom to be one of its priorities. They never would have proclaimed the Gospel of grace with such boldness and they never would have seen the exponential growth that they did. The apostle Paul put it well in Acts 20:24 . "I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Freedom and comfort were of little value to Paul in light of the Great Command of our Lord. It should be the same for us.

The sinless son of God hung on a bloody cross and payed for the sins of every human who will ever live. How is that for justice! If we claim to follow this man as our Savior, then how can we even think to complain when something doesn't go in our favor? The death of Jesus was the greatest injustice ever committed in the history of the universe. Our petty "sufferings" pale in comparison. Do they not?

But come on... equality? That has to be something we are entitled to, right? Once again, Jesus set the bar pretty high. Philippians 2:3-  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" If the one we serve took on the very nature of a servant, then how much lower should we humble ourselves to serve him?

Aside from the example of Jesus, I see no better picture of giving up one's rights then that of the apostles. Here is an account from an unknown early historian.

"Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia. Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city. Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece. John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward banished to Patmos. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward. James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem.James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller's club. Bartholomew was flayed alive. Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died. Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica. Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero."

The reality is this: "The world has the right to hate us or love us." We on the other hand have inherited no rights. When we set out to follow in the dust of our Rabbi, we abandoned every right we ever thought we had. The right to be comfortable, safe, loved, respected, well-fed, listened-to, and even the right to live.

The longer we hold on the these rights, the less we can be used by our Savior. 

Beg Him to teach us how to let them go for the sake of something greater.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
-Romans 8:18