Jesus and Your Rights

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means, I might save some.
— 1 Corinthians 9:22

Paul wrote this famous letter to an audience that was wildly hedonistic. The church he planted in Corinth sprang up in the greater context of a culture that would make most modern day iniquitous cities blush.

And people all defended their rebellious lifestyles by citing their rights all the time.

“I have a right to…”

“It’s my right to…”

(Sound familiar?)

What is compelling in Scripture is the biblical view of your rights. In another letter, Paul accurately describes the fact that, from God’s perspective, though we spend so much time and energy always flashing around our rights down here, in this incessant and childish behavior of constantly defending ourselves and our sin, in reality we really we have no right to anything but death.

Why?

Because we have trespassed against God. And it doesn’t really matter how much you’ve trespassed. A trespasser is a trespasser, regardless off how far onto the off limits property he has strayed.

God has marked certain behavior “off limits,” and we all have violated those parameters.

We are all equally damnable.

“But yeah,” Paul says with a playful grin. “Tell me more about your rights.”

In that Philippians 2 passage, after the bad news comes the good:

The only one with a right to anything is Jesus Christ, because he is the only one who has lived and has never sinned. And though he had His rights, he “made himself nothing” to become sin for us (Philippians 2). He laid aside his rights.

Why?

So that he might save us.

The Greek word ἵνα (pronounced “hinna”) shows purpose. It is a conjunction that denotes the reason behind something, the goal of something. It addresses intent –that, in order that, so that.

And it appears twice in the verse above.

Jesus laid aside his rights so that he might save us.

Paul here, in discussing rights with a group of people wildly defensive of its rights and its non requirement of having to lay those rights down, describes instead his own submission of his rights.

He spends the first part of the chapter describing his rights as an apostle. Flashing those credentials –the same ones we all flash when we want people to know how right we are, or how deserving we are, or how acceptable our behavior is.

And then in an uproarious crescendo he concludes in verse 19: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Tucked away in that verse, a bit too subtle in the English but strong in the Greek, is that tiny word of purpose and intent ἵνα.

That, in order that, so that. 

I have given up my rights that, in order that, so that I might win others to Christ.

It’s not about my rights, Paul says. It’s about the cross. It’s about Him. It’s about the gospel message.

I lay everything else down.

I know that doesn’t sound very American. Paul says “Though I am free and belong to no one…” Most Americans would stop there. We would print that and put it on a t shirt. Maybe a bumper sticker or two, or make some hats with the phrase. We love our freedom. We flash it a lot. Talk about it a lot. And we should, to an extent. It came with a great price. But our spiritual freedom cost more. It cost Jesus His life. He died to set us free from the debt we owed for our trespassing. Our freedom as Americans should always take a knee to our freedom in Christ. And our freedom in Christ always takes a knee to the mission He gave us, for which, like Paul, we should willingly lay aside our freedom.

The point of my life is not my rights. I don’t care about my rights. The only thing I truly deserve anyway is death. So why cling to my rights? This life is vapor- what a tragic endeavor, to spend it fighting for my rights.

The point of my life is to point to Him.

And to that goal and for that goal, I willingly lay everything else aside. Because I really have no rights anyway. None of us do.

Want to talk about those rights again?

I do all this for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:23).

 

On this Election Day 2016, allow Paul’s words to put your rights into perspective, to align where your gaze should be fixed.

It’s amazing how that proper alignment allows everything else to fall into place, isn’t it?

Your country is your mission field. Not your Eden. Quit talking about your rights all the time and live with purpose.

Amen?

Amen.

Lord, may it be so.

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