Friday, July 22, 2022

My Rights or the Cross


To follow Jesus is to live a life of self-denial, a willingness to suffer persecution for him and serve others selflessly

Cross Mountains - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Rage and retaliation are
NOT appropriate “Christian” reactions to hostility and organizing loud protests when our “rights” are threatened only demonstrates how far we have accommodated ourselves to the values of this age that are so contrary to the  example of Jesus, especially his self-sacrificial death - [Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash].

Consider the issue of persecution. If we become angry over even verbal insults to our faith, how will we respond to genuine and serious persecution? Would we take to the streets in protest, or perhaps riot against our oppressors?

HIS DISCIPLE


Jesus instructed HIS disciples to “rejoice and leap for joy” whenever “men hate you, and ostracize you, and profane you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man…for great is your reward in heaven.” That sort of reaction stands in stark contrast to our tendency to lash out at every perceived infringement on our “rights” or insult to our religion.

Perhaps Christians behave so they demonstrate that they are someone else’s disciple. They certainly do not emulate the Christ of Calvary.

But after his resurrection, the disciples took his teachings to heart. When Peter and the apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin - beaten and ordered to cease preaching -rather than respond in anger or mount a street protest, they went their way “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

Years later, after being beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel, Paul and Silas spent the night “praying and singing hymns to God” from their prison cell - (Acts 5:41, 16:23-25).

Isaiah prophesied that the “suffering servant of Yahweh” would be “oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” The Messiah of Israel sent by God Himself would not “wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick” - (Isaiah 53:7).

And Jesus also exhorted HIS disciples to “love your enemies, to pray for them who persecute you,” and to extend mercy to every “enemy” who abused them. Showing mercy to enemies is the precise way by which we emulate our Heavenly Father and become “perfect” as He is. Does our indignation at the violation of our “rights,” real or imagined, evidence that we are his disciples or someone else’s?

HIS EXAMPLE


Jesus was the only truly righteous man ever to live. If anyone deserved respect for his “rights,” he did. Yet rather than be served, Jesus came “to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”

And that is what he did by enduring a horrific and unjust death, and he did so willingly when we were yet “enemies of God.”

If anything, conforming to the pattern of his death is how we become “great in the kingdom of God,” and it is certainly mandatory for HIS disciples - (Matthew 20:28, Romans 5:10).

When an armed mob came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and “smote the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.” But Jesus did the unexpected. Rather than join Peter in defending his civil “rights” and even the right to self-defense, he rebuked him and commanded Peter to sheathe his sword. But he went even further “against the grain” by healing the severed ear of the wounded man who had come to arrest him contrary to the law and his “rights” - (John 18:10-12).

Interrogated, beaten, and reviled before the High Priest, Jesus reviled not in return. While suffering on a Roman cross, he prayed that his Father would “forgive them, for they know not what they do” - (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:34).

Scripture portrays persecution for the gospel as something HIS disciples should expect and endure, and not only so, but suffering for Jesus is a great privilege and honor, a matter for rejoicing for HIS disciples.

Through loud protests and legal machinations, Christians may avoid persecution but unwittingly rob themselves of something of infinitely greater value than a comfortable life or political “freedom.”  Like the hypocrites who do their righteous deeds to be seen before men, they may already “have their reward,” but NOTwith their Father who is in heaven” - (Matthew 6:1-5).

OUR PRIVILEGE TO SERVE


As for our “inherent rights,” the notion of inviolate civil “rights” that must be defended at all costs flies in the face of New Testament teachings on discipleship, mercy, suffering for the gospel, and the forgiveness of enemies.

If you wish to become HIS disciple, you must “take up his cross and follow” him no matter where it leads and failing to do so will make you unworthy of him. To become "greatest" in HIS kingdom and political domain, you must become the “slave of all.”

The Apostle Paul, for example, gave up his “right” to take a wife for the sake of the ministry. Likewise, though as an apostle he had the right to expect financial support, he often abstained from this “right” by supporting himself through manual labor, and all to further the gospel - (Acts 18:3, 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, 9:1-14).

Western-style democracy may provide its citizens with the opportunity to exercise and defend their individual and civil “rights,” but that belief is altogether different than the gospel and example of Jesus. HIS disciples are called to serve a political order of an entirely different king, a kingdom “not from this world.”

In contrast to the privileges and the “wisdom of this age,” including its most popular political ideologies, the biblical faith offers us the far greater privilege of serving the kingdom of God, and the vast honor of enduring insults, hatred, and even persecution on behalf of its king, Jesus, and doing so will provide HIS disciple with rewards that far outweigh any losses he or she may suffer in this life while waiting for the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory.



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