Living Right

Dan Howard   -  

We just celebrated July 4th. Our Independence Day. It’s a day we set aside to remember one of the greatest blessings we have been given. We are privileged to live in a nation that is founded on the idea that all men are created equal and are given the rights not only to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but that we are also allowed to worship freely. These are great rights to have as an American citizen. But I want to ask you, what rights do you have as a citizen of Heaven on Earth?

That’s harder to answer.
Because Christ calls on us to set aside our rights; and it’s a very hard teaching. It goes against our nature. It goes against our desire for comfort and need to minimize risk.

When speaking about life Christ challenges His followers to set aside their right to their own life:
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35 (ESV)

When speaking about liberty and freedom what scripture calls us to is a life of service to our fellow man, that we might be God’s ambassadors:

not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man – Ephesians 6:6-7 (ESV)

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)

As Christ served so are we to do likewise:
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[a] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. – John 13:12-17 (ESV)

In fact, Jesus holds us to the highest standards when it comes to the idea we must fight for our rights:
“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. – Matthew 5:38-43 (ESV)

Instead, Jesus reminds us again and again to love our neighbor’s rights more than our own.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV)

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy the rights you have. But you should remember that they are a blessing, and use them to further the Gospel. We should not get comfortable, but instead we should be using this gift in service of the Kingdom of God. We should be like Paul, who used his Roman citizenship as a shield from his adversaries, and an opportunity to bring the love of Jesus Christ to places others couldn’t go. As Paul wrote the Philippians 2:4 (ESV) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This Independence Day, celebrate your heritage as an American. It’s one of the greatest blessings you have been given. But don’t let it define you. It’s a temporary thing. Nations rise and fall. The Lord remains. Remember that God set aside all of the rights he possessed, took on human form in a manger and submitted to an unjust death upon a cross. He didn’t insist upon chariot and warhorse, but instead chose to walk from town to town, and ride a donkey into certain death. His feet were dirty while he washed others. And He did it for you and for me.

Not that I might insist upon my rights,
But that I could be made right before God.

Thank you, God, for this nation. Thank you for the blessings I enjoy that many do not have.
May my rights not make me comfortable, but may it instead provide greater opportunity for witness.


-Pastor Dan