I Have My Rights!

Probably no country in the world has been more adamant about the rights of its citizens and the role of government in maintaining those rights. When the U.S. Constitution was written, three delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not sign it because it lacked a bill of rights.

Created in 1787 the Constitution became the official foundation of the USA in 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state out of the 13 to ratify it. Many states agreed to ratify it with the understanding that a bill of rights would be quickly added.

In 1789, 19 amendments were submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. James Madison is given credit for writing them although it is believed others, including George Mason, who had refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, had given input. Seventeen of the 19 amendments were approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate approved 12 of them and in December 1791 the states had ratified ten of them.

Throughout the history of our country these amendments and the rights they gave have been debated and challenged in our courts. Today it is the Second Amendment that has produced so much disagreement and arguing.

The point of this post is not to argue for or against exactly what that amendment meant in regards to our right to possess guns.

But what distrurbs me is the role many evangelical leaders are taking in pushing an agenda of the “rights” of Christians. Many have been very hostile in speaking against those who do not agree with the “Christian” point of view. Sadly they seem to feel that their viewpoint is the “Christian” viewpoint and anyone who opposes that is clearly not a Christian.

The contrast between this militant voice of many evangelicals and the voice of Jesus shows that the Christian “right” has lost its Biblical connection.

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said we need to become a servant. To be a follower of Jesus does not mean you have no rights. It means you give up your rights freely in order to bless and help someone else.

Hear how Jesus was described:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Although Jesus had a “right” to be treated like royalty he gave up that right and make himself “like a slave.” In doing so He modeled exactly what He meant when He said “If any man desires to be first, let him be last and servant of all.”

Jesus ministered in a country that was under the rule of another nation, the Roman Empire. There was much that was unjust in that time. But Jesus said nothing about trying to change the political scene. He said his kingdom was not of this world. He had a plan that was much bigger and greater than any government, any nation, any political party.

The issues we as Christians face in our country today do need to be faced and legislated and thank God because we have rights, we have the right to express ourselves. But we must not invest so much of our time and energy in trying to make our nation Christian by trying to force our beliefs on others that we fail to introduce them to a different kind of kingdom, one based on the love of God. (Laws may change behavior, but they will never change hearts.)

“Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals of the 1990’s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish; to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners….Jesus did not say ‘All men will know you are my disciples…if you just pass laws, suppress immorality and restore decency to family and government,’ but rather ‘if you love one another.’ “

He made that statement the night before His death, a night when human power, represented by the might of Rome and the full force of Jewish religious authorities, collided head-on with God’s power. All his life, Jesus had been involved in a form of “culture wars” against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire, yet he responded by giving his life for those who opposed him. On the cross, he forgave them. He had come, above all, to demonstrate love: “for God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son…”

Philip Yancey in his book “the jesus I never knew.” i highly recommend this book

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