As citizens of the United States we are blessed and thankful for many rights. We enjoy freedom of religion, the right to free speech, the right to assemble, the right to bear arms (going sleeveless or having arms like a bear?), the right to a speedy trial, the right to disagree with authority and say so, the right to idolize our country and leaders, and the right to point out the problems that exist. I’m not here to give you an exhaustive list, so I won’t.
What I notice is that I hear a lot these days about “my rights”. People are determined that no one infringe on the boundaries of their full rights. “They can’t tell me what to do.” Whether it is an employer, a school board, a city, a church, a state or federal agency issuing guidelines or orders, people are refusing to comply even with suggestions. To be sure, some are just angry people who never cooperate with anything. But what I’m seeing is a huge number of people who are claiming that asserting their rights is tied closely to their Christian faith.
The problem with this mindset is Christianity has nothing to do with our rights. The rights we have as Christians are very different from those we may have as U.S. citizens. We have the right to pray, to love, to repent, and to serve. We are called again and again to model our lives after Christ. That means laying down our rights for the benefit of others. That means we set aside our preferences and interests in order to put the other person first. That includes the person we don’t know, the one with a totally different background that we can’t understand, and the one we disagree with about almost everything. As in the case of Christ, this sacrifice extends even to the very ones pounding the nails and shouting the insults.
It’s a Christian’s responsibility to do everything in her or his power to understand the life and path another has walked. To be dismissive of people and views that are different than those we have is the opposite of love. It’s the opposite of obedience. It’s rebellion, and it’s sin. It’s true that in Christ we have access to truth that the world does not see, but that means WE are the ones responsible to hear, listen, and build bridges to the rest of the world.
I love my country. But it’s just a country. My citizenship is in heaven, not here. If you call yourself a Christian, yours is too. So we need to choose. Which kingdom will we serve? Will we live in such a way as to make sure no one infringes on our rights as a U.S. citizen? Will we make an idol of this earthly system?
Or will we live as a citizen of God’s kingdom? Will we lay aside that which serves and benefits us in order to understand and serve and love those who don’t fit our mold? Will we have the attitude of Christ who emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant? Will we do nothing from selfishness, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves and look out for their interests over our own? Philippians 2 instructs us to do exactly these things. In chapter 3 Paul states that our goal should be to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. We can’t know Him as we should without being included in His suffering. So will we press on to know Him, or will we protect our own rights? Which kingdom will we serve?