Our home, sweet home is the Land of the Free. We are Americans (or Canadians), and as such we are constantly reminded that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then there are our constitutional rights: free speech, voting, bearing arms, trial by jury, etc. Our culture has been engrained with these rights to the point that we’ve grown a sense of entitlement. We have the tendency to demand our rights, to insist upon justice in personal grievances, and to expect the maximum benefit for ourselves with little regard for its effect on others. Just watch an episode of Judge Judy or read today’s headlines and it becomes clear: selfishness is rampant in our society. It is the ultimate source of the major problems facing our nation today: an incredibly high divorce rate, broken homes, abuse, and the collapse of our prided economy.
So what does the Bible say about our rights?
First, as children of God we are called to be set apart, different from the rest. Peter said Christians are a chosen generation, royal, holy, and “peculiar.” Why? So we may tell the world about Him who called us out of darkness into His light (1 Peter 2:9).
OK, we are supposed to stand out, and we know why, but how?
Peter goes on to say our conduct should be honorable amongst those who are unsaved, so that when someone talks bad about us, our reputation will be known as honest and reputable. In turn, they will glorify God because of our good conduct (1 Peter 2:12). Good deeds—check. Honorable lifestyle—check. Anything else?
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Every ordinance?Every institution? What if I don’t agree with their policies or the philosophy they espouse? What if it’s just one of those silly rules? Peter continues by saying it is God’s will for Christians to do good and in turn put the ignorance of foolish people to silence (1 Peter 2:15-16). Well, I guess that’s doable. At least it says we still have our freedom. Submit to anyone in authority—check.
Still, what if it’s unjust? Surely God doesn’t want us to give up our rights and put up with unfairness? That’s just wrong! Right?
Wrong. Peter says to obey your masters even if they are unjust (1 Peter 2:18-20).
Whoa. Let that sink in a bit. Even when they are unjust. So we’re supposed to suffer personal injustice quietly without making a big deal out of it? Really? What does that even look like?
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24; KJV).
Jesus suffered agony unjustly, for us. He is our example. He didn’t revile or threaten, no. He simply entrusted Himself to the Father, knowing God is a just Judge.
This sounds like more than just suffering for our faith. It really goes against the grain of our culture. Is it possible that we’re asked to trade our entitlement to rights for a Christ-like meekness and humility? After all, we are a “people for His own possession” called to follow His example as we point others to Him. A selfless, humble servant’s heart would definitely set us apart from the rest . . .
With this in mind, consider the following scenarios. Compare your gut reaction to Peter’s comments above. What Christ-like reaction sets you apart?
You’re standing in a long line at the airport waiting to check in, when a Hispanic man cuts line and proceeds to take FOREVER to get his things in order because he can’t understand, thus making you late for your flight.
You’re overdue a pay-raise, and you’ve put in extra effort hoping your boss takes notice. You deserve the increase, but some upstart who transferred in six months ago is the one who gets it.
You’re out on a special date to a place that’s normally out of your price range. The service is extremely slow, your food is not to order, and the waitress gets testy with your simple requests. When your check comes, the pricey tip is already calculated in.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the right to serve, the right to put others before ourselves, the right to remain silent and suffer patiently, the right to make personal sacrifices, and the right to have abundant life in Him. May we be ever mindful of those rights, and may we use them to the glory of God.