As I thought about my rights as a Christian, here are some things that came to mind. Without referencing any particular Scripture, these are some things I thought of based on my knowledge of the New Testament, and particularly the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul. Here are some of my rights as a disciple of Christ:
- to consider others better than myself, and put their needs above my own
- to put myself in the place of least importance
- to suffer for the name of Christ
- to lay aside all my "important" accomplishments, degrees, titles, and accolades for the sake of Christ
- to be wronged so that the name of Jesus is held in high regard
- to crucify my pride and live a life of humility
- to boast in Christ rather than brag about myself
These are in stark contrast to the typical American mindset. We often hear things like:
- look out for Number One
- above all else, pursue personal happiness
- take pride in your accomplishments; you've earned them!
- make sure you get what's coming to you
- we need to be self-confident and self-esteeming
- it doesn't matter what anyone says about you; you are amazing!
Without realizing it, we have let many of these attitudes creep into the church. Now, certainly, there are great blessings that come with being a child of God! We have been adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:3-6) and have received an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-9). We have an eternal hope to look forward to (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Jesus told his disciples that they were friends of God (John 15:15). But I fear that we have become confused, believing that the rights of sonship, and these spiritual blessings, are somehow supposed to be fully realized here on earth, and exercised in our relationships here.
But if you read the context of the verses I cited from 1 Peter, the gospel of John, and 2 Corinthians, you will see that they all refer to the trouble that Christians will face on earth. Indeed, Jesus even promised his disciples that they would be hated on account of him! When it comes to our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul says that we should rather be wronged and cheated rather than exercising our legal rights to bring charges against them (1 Corinthians 6:7-8). For further reading about our Christian "rights", consider James 4:6-10, Philippians 3:7-11, Philippians 1:27-39, Matthew 10:21-22, and Galatians 6:14.
As an American, my first reaction when I am wronged is sometimes to seek immediate justice. But as a Christian, my first response should be to lay down my rights, and my very life, for Christ and for those He has called me to serve. As I think ahead to the time we will serve in cross-cultural ministry, I can only imagine the ways in which our "rights" will be violated, and we will need to follow the example of Christ in the way we react to these situations. Lord, strengthen me by your Spirit as I seek to follow your example of humility, service, and self-sacrifice!