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.