This is a follow up from my last post on reflections on I Peter from our church plant bible study. Someone posed a few good questions to me in response to the post: are there any times where Christians demand their rights, and shouldn’t we stand up for our rights?
It is hard to qualify what exactly counts as a right (as opposed to a privilege) today since most people-and it is usually divided politically-rarely agree on what comprises a list of rights. Owning a machine gun, welfare check, government provided health care, gay marriage, etc….But in general, most people are probably in agreement that there are some rights that you should never touch. However, finding agreement on which rights those are might prove more difficult since the same person who may hold to freedom of religion could at the same time, be limiting his neighbors’ freedom if his neighbor is forced to accept certain government mandates.
So the lines are probably more blurry than fine.
Are there times when the bible advocates not standing up for your rights? Yes. Paul actually tells Christians not to take other Christians to court. He tells them not to defend themselves in a court setting because doing so would present a bad witness to the community. But that’s not fair is it? Well, sometimes it’s better to take one for the team (that’s what Jesus did, right?). Yet, for the sake of the gospel, Paul reminds them, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (I Cor 6:5-7). This is a hard one for believers to follow. I’ve even seen pastors bring law suits and that has always astounded me. So yes, some Christians have demanded their rights, when in fact, they should just rather have been wronged.
I am thankful for people who feel called to stand up for the rights of Christians. Some use political clout to hold sway. Some are called to lobby. Some are called to study, and others to be aware of infringements on free expression of religion. And I’m thankful for such people, because my calling puts me in different places.
I’m called to plant a church that makes disciples who will then be salt and light to its community. Each Christian has different gifts and callings, and the freedom, power, and hopefully training to pursue justice and mercy in their jobs, and neighborhoods throughout the county. Ideally their hearts are on the rights, or privileges, or simply welfare of others before their own interests (Phil 2:4, James 1:27).
If I had to re-word my original post I would probably have used the words “preferences” or “privileges.” The church which I hope to plant will be one in which its members are willing to sacrifice personal preferences and privileges, without sacrificing the distinctiveness of the gospel, so that more lives would be reached.
And simply leaving an established church, to head out into the “glorious unknown” (cue Stephen Curtis Chapmans’ “Great Adventure”) is a step in the direction of sacrificing the privilege and preferences. You exchange a building for rented facility, familiarity for a vision, known identity for uncertain status, security for insecurity. But for those whom God calls to leave, a blessing of His promised presence awaits and is worth every penny. At least it has been for me so far.