Christians Don’t Need Rights

Donald Trump said a few months ago that he would be the greatest representative of Christians if he was elected president. He and I might differ on what it means to be a great representative of Christians (the best representative of Christianity I know lived 2,000 years ago and was homeless), but I’m not sure why Christians need a political representative to begin with. What makes us think that the nation owes us anything? Why do we feel like Christians are owed particular rights and privileges?

Jesus was a third-class citizen of a country occupied by the Romans. He had no rights or privileges, and he followed God just fine.

But it seems like many of us Christians have this idea that our individual rights are the most important thing. That if these rights are trampled on or disappear, that the end is coming. That America or other Western countries are great because they’re deferential to Christians. But Christ didn’t call us to positions of influence and respect. He didn’t call us to fight for our rights as Christians. He called us to take up our cross and follow him.

So Should Christians be allowed to pray in school? Should they be allowed to refuse service to people on the basis of sexual orientation/race/gender/etc.? Should they be allowed to (fill in the blank)?

Who cares? Since when does your relationship with God depend on your rights as a human being? In the book of Daniel, when Darius made a law prohibiting prayer to any deities for a month, Daniel went back to his house and prayed anyway.

And then he went to a lion’s den.

And when Darius came back to get him the next morning, the first thing that Daniel said to him wasn’t, “Give me back my rights, jerk!” It was, “Oh king, may you live forever.”

To the guy who threw him into a lion’s den for praying.

Because Daniel trusted that God was going to take care of him, even if he didn’t have any rights.

But Christianity has grown used to a position of power and influence in the world, and it has poisoned the hearts of many Christians. Where the early Church rejoiced when they were tortured for their faith, the modern western Church cries foul over cakes and flags.  Where the early Church met in secret, the modern western Church builds expensive, eye-catching cathedrals. Where the early Church were ostracized and harassed for their faith, many in the modern western Church ostracize and harass people of other faiths.

Our ancestors rejoiced in their trouble. We invent trouble to wallow in it.

We’ve forgotten how to trust in the freedom of God. We rely, instead, on our civil liberties to allow us to practice faith. But how we follow God should not be dependent on how our government says we can follow God. We should follow God with everything we’ve got, even if it leads to real persecution and real difficulties.

And if you are wronged, Good. At least it’s you and not someone else.

If the government shows favor to non-Christians at the expense of Christians, Good. Those are the conditions the Church was born in. Those are the conditions the Church thrives in.

If the government passes a law that makes it harder for you to practice your faith, Good. True faith requires surrender, and it’s very difficult to surrender from a position of authority and comfort.

If your personal rights and liberties are infringed, Good. You’re a slave to Christ, and slaves don’t have any rights anyway.

If your life is made miserable because of your faith in God – Good. That means you’re like Christ.

I’m starting to think that the expectation of rights was always a bad thing for Christians anyway. Rights lead to selfishness. If we become focused on our rights, we lose focus on others. If we become focused on what we ought to be allowed to do, we can’t focus on what Christ ought to be doing in us.

Because I guarantee you that Christ is able to change the world without relying on your rights. Christ is able to win people to himself without the need for free speech, or flags, or guns, or anything else.

So the next time we’re having a conversation about “rights”, let’s keep in mind where our allegiance lies. Not in a country or a government that gives us an easy life. Not in free speech and fancy church buildings. Not in a position of comfort and authority.

Our allegiance lies in Christ who asks us to surrender everything, take up our cross and follow him.

16 thoughts on “Christians Don’t Need Rights

  1. Love this so much! Everyone needs to read this!! I’ve recently read The Mark of the Lion series and it has given me a whole new perspective on the Church and the world that Jesus lived in. And how we should be now. This post put words to my feelings. Thank you!

    Like

  2. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21) Not because they’ve earned it, deserve it or you can benefit by doing so. We do everything (or at least we should) out of reverence for Christ. The greatest right we have as Christians is the right to give up our rights for the sake of another.

    Like

  3. In general I agree with the author’s sentiment about following God regardless of the law but lets not forget God uses the rights government gives us for his purposes also. Daniel had no recourse available to him, the king was the king and what he said goes. Paul used his right as a Roman Citizen to appeal to Caesar rather than submit to the Jewish authorities or the Roman Governor Felix because his government guaranteed him certain rights and he exercised them. Rather then taking American Christians to task for wanting to defend our right to life our faith as the Bible says the author should be encouraging one another to praise God for the great blessings he has bestowed upon us as free citizens of this great nation and to use our position of privilege to bless our brethren who are less fortunate both domestically and abroad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Actually, I couldn’t disagree more with this article. Suppose the first century Christians were told they had a say in the laws of Rome and the leaders, that they could make it illegal to kill people for entertainment, namely Christians? If they said, “No thanks, we don’t need rights.” how dumb would that be? But we were blessed to be a part of a country where we do have a say, we can make a difference. To suggest we do not have a responsibility to be good stewards of the freedoms and liberties entrusted to us for future generations to enjoy is the pinnacle of foolishness and is a largely why this nation has become as evil as it is. When you’ve been blessed with something use it for the glory of God. Don’t spit on it and say I didn’t need it anyway. Is that the right thing to do with a gift? Please consider the worthless servant that took what was entrusted to him and just buried it where it done no one any good.

    Like

    1. Hey John, thanks for your comment!

      I think the only thing I would ask you is, if Christ wanted us to jockey for our own rights and privileges, why didn’t he spend even a second of the Gospels appealing to the authorities?

      I think the Christ Hymn in Philippians says it best – Christ, who was in the very form of God, but did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, so he made himself low. We wouldn’t say he spat upon the blessing of being God by abandoning that to be human. He lowered himself to the position of servant. Rather than affecting governmental or legislative change, he came from the bottom and worked to change individual people’s lives, even though it meant being killed for it.

      Christians should do the same. It’s not spitting on a gift to turn away from rights and privileges and to lower ourselves to the position of servant. It’s not poor stewardship of God’s blessings to serve others so fully that we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of and trampled on in the process. It’s Christ-like.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice thought-provoking article, Tyler… you ask “why didn’t he spend even a second of the Gospels appealing to the authorities?” Well, the government he and the disciples were subject to was authoritarian in nature. Comparatively, we are in a time and place where we choose our leaders and the direction of the government, and it in theory represents us. Taking your conclusions an extra step, are you saying the ideal existence is a monk/nun, who completely defer/have minimal comment to outside authorities on everything? If not, where’s the line? Thanks!

        Like

  5. Render unto Cesar what belongs to Cesar and unto God what is Gods. If you are a Christian then all that belongs to Cesar is in fact all that belongs to God. The difference lies in the reality of our belief in Jesus Christ, a reality that is SPIRITUAL in opposition to the reality of Cesar which is worldly. Operating as a christian the spiritual should always take priority.

    Like

  6. Hey Tyler,

    “Who cares?” and “If the government passes a law that makes it harder for you to practice your faith, Good. True faith requires surrender, and it’s very difficult to surrender from a position of authority and comfort.”

    Do you mean to argue that the Christians should not be involved in the government?

    Matthew 22 reads, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Given that the US government is as Lincoln said “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and that God providentially raises our government (Daniel 2:20), it is not possible for Christians in the US to obey the first two commandments and live passively in our nation.

    While I agree with your point that “our allegiance is to God,” logically you can’t get there and remain passive in society. (i.e. “Who cares”) It is not possible for the church to love God and remain passive in government, especially in the United States. I think you’ll find this to be true “in theory” and in the history of the church.

    ——
    More to consider…You may also consider these passages where God used the church to influence the government (note that in some instance Christians opposed the government and in others Christians were government officials)
    – The magi disobeyed Herod’s order. Matt 2
    – John the Baptist lost his head because he preached against Herod. Matt 14
    – Jesus was executed because He claimed to be King of the Jews. This was treason (civil disobedience) to ‘King’ Augustus. Matt 27
    – Every act of declaring the Gospel (Jesus is King!) was an act of civil disobedience because Rome declared that Caesar is King and Rome is Lord. Acts 13 and on
    – Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill would have not just been a ‘religious’ sermon. It was aimed at the political order of the day – a pantheon of gods, which Paul rejected. Christians would have been accepted by the civil government of the day (Roman Empire) if they would have been willing to add Jesus to the list of gods. They were not. They claimed he was the one true God…thus we have civil disobedience. Acts 17
    – Paul was jailed by the civil government because of civil disorder. Acts 24-27
    – God raises up Ester to save the Jews
    – God raises up Joseph to save Israel
    – Daniel remains faithful and opposes/disagrees with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 1
    – Jonah preaches to Nineveh and the entire city is saved. Jonah 3
    – The government should be “God’s servant for your good.” Romans 13

    ** One more very important point, Galatians 3-4 contradicts this statement “If your personal rights and liberties are infringed, Good. You’re a slave to Christ, and slaves don’t have any rights anyway.”

    Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

    Like

    1. Hey Rob, thanks for your comment!

      The goal of my post wasn’t that Christians don’t belong in the government, although that is my personal perspective, so it probably leaks through into this particular post.

      For the record, I’m not a proponent of Christians living passively. Just that government or legislative process isn’t the action that Christians ought to take. Jesus’ example of loving his neighbor was to love his neighbor, not to change the laws and practices to facilitate loving of neighbor.

      You say, “It is not possible for the church to love God and remain passive in government, especially in the United States. I think you’ll find this to be true “in theory” and in the history of the church.” and I would strongly disagree with you. Christ was passive in government, and that point alone is enough to say not only is it possible to love God and be passive in government, it’s Christ-like.

      Also, the early church was also passive in government, until you get to Constantine, and I would argue that the Constantinian Shift is the single worst thing that ever happened to the Church as a whole, because it took a movement of people humbling themselves and trusting in God and turned it into a movement of people who exalted themselves to positions of power, and trusting in their position to accomplish the work that God was supposed to do.

      Also note that I’m not opposed to the Church influencing the government in the sense of spreading the Gospel to those who are in government. Many of the examples that you listed of Christians in government were Christians engaging in civil disobedience in order to spread the message of God. I affirm and support that kind of action.

      John the Baptist didn’t try to secure rights as a citizen. He preached and took the consequences, with no regards for his “rights”. Same with Paul, although Paul did appeal to the rights afforded to every Roman Citizen. But he didn’t do so in a way that advocated for himself or his own personal comfort. He used his Roman citizenship to get him to Rome so he could continue to be a missionary. His goal wasn’t to protect himself, it was to spread his message. When he was mistreated, he still rejoiced.

      The majority of the examples you list are just people preaching the message of God, even when it goes against the government. The whole point of my article is that we should have the same attitude. Rather than trying to get Christianity official recognition and a high level of respect, we should buckle down and serve others, even if it means we’re treated unfairly, persecuted, or even killed.

      Finally, Galatians may progress the slave metaphor to a metaphor of sonship, but Paul in other places (and some of it in later letters than Galatians) still refers to slavery to Christ (Ephesians 6) and slavery to righteousness (Romans 6), while 2 Peter refers to using our freedom to be bondslaves to God (2:16).

      It’s true that God does not treat us as slaves, and that he calls us sons, but it’s a huge stretch of the meaning of that verse to suggest that our sonship to God affords us rights in our worldly kingdoms. God elects us as his children, but he doesn’t give us earthly rights. We follow God, even when we have no rights. Because our rights aren’t important. Our citizenship with God is. And that’s something we can live out without fighting for our rights and privileges.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In the act of loving it’s neighbor, the Church will always “bump into” government. I’d encourage you to read “A Christian Manifesto” by Francis Schaeffer

        Here is a speech that Schaeffer gave on the same topic (shorter summary of the subject)
        http://www.peopleforlife.org/francis.html

        Also, I didn’t “suggest that our sonship to God affords us rights in our worldly kingdoms.” You wrote “You’re a slave to Christ, and slaves don’t have any rights anyway.” I was making the point that the Bible doesn’t describe the church as slaves to Christ, so your analogy is invalid.

        Thanks for the discussion.

        Like

  7. aw…no reason to ruin a thought provoking post by getting snarky. It does seem as though your last sentence should begin with Our…instead of Or…but anyway.
    So what about instances of clear sin?
    ” If your life is made miserable because of your faith in God – Good. That means you’re like Christ.” So what if you are raped for your faith? Or forced to have an abortion for your faith? Or commit murder for your faith? Just trying to get a sense of this elusive “line” being mentioned above.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s