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"I Have a Right!" (And Other Christian Urban Legends)

One of the problems of being both a Christian and a citizen of the United States, or any Western democracy for that matter is the confusion over "our rights".


As a U.S. citizen, I have all kinds of legal rights to protect me from the government and others. Occasionally other people's rights infringe on mine, or I think they do and a court has to sort things out. There are grey areas in the law, but by and large U.S. citizens have lots of rights and a legal mechanism to enforce them.


But as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, Christians have very few rights. In fact I can't actually think of any that Jesus granted to his followers. The very opposite is true. The Sermon on the Mount, is actually a "deconstruction" of our rights.


“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me". -Matthew 5:11


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also". -Matthew 5:38-39


"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you", -Matthew 5:42-44


"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins". -Matthew 6:14-15


“Do not judge, or you too will be judged". -Matthew 7:1


And I could quote dozens more commands Jesus gave requiring the citizens of his kingdom to give up their rights.


Reading blogs & social media posts it's obvious we American Christians are often confused because we have dual citizenship we intuitively think that if we have legal rights as citizens of the U.S. we have similar rights as a citizen of the Kingdom in the church. Church leaders have been threatened by fellow Christians with lawsuits, or withholding offerings for obeying the government regarding masking and social distancing. Pastors are being shamed on social media for not supporting a certain political candidate, or cause, or for personally supporting a position other Christians disagree with. Apparently their "right to free speech," supersedes the commands of Scripture.


A few decades ago a denomination with a number of churches in our city made the decision to allow each local church to ordain women. A church I used to attend as a kid decided to ordain women. A number of members objected and appealed to the highest authority in that denomination which ruled against them. At that point a wealthy individual actually took out full page ads in the local newspaper protesting this "injustice."


I called that person and we met. I told him I believed airing his grievances in public not only did no good, but he embarrassed Christians and the church by airing our "dirty linen," before even non-believers. In my opinion he had only two options. Submit to the decision of those in authority over him, or leave the church. Obviously he disagreed. He had the right to free speech! What gives any Christian the moral right to insist their view be upheld in the church other than those espoused by the Bible? Can you find one verse of scripture supporting lawsuits against churches or shaming them? Just the opposite;


"The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters". -I Corinthians 6:7-8


Christians have no rights in the kingdom of God other than the right to serve God and the right to love one another. And any effort to claim any other right against another Christian or a church is a sin, regardless of your legal right to do so! "Why not rather be cheated?"


So, here's the question for today. Do Christians have the right to voice, or repost judgmental accusations on social media about other Christians? I want to be clear. I believe we have an obligation to speak truth whenever we see sin, or an injustice taking place, but how we voice that and where we voice that is the question. And there's a difference between informing and accusing. In the Church, between Christians we have this right:


“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector". -Matthew 18:15-17


But what about in the public? Last month there was a ballot initiative in Michigan to guarrentee the right to abortion in our Constitution. Sadly it passed. Christians have the right and obligation to free speech to speak out. I blogged on the topic of the myth of "reproductive rights." But I was sent several social media posts critical in public of certain pastors who did not speak out against it. I consider that unacceptable. If you have an issue with your pastor, or any pastor, or any Christian for that matter, go to them face-to-face, or in writing and give them the right to explain themselves if they choose. But accusing them in public is antithetical to Jesus' commands, regardless of our rights as citizens.


"There are six things the LORD hates-no seven things he detests. . . A false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among the brothers." Proverbs 6:16, 19


Take some time this week to examine your own life and that of those in your church. Are you aware of any church member in open opposition to the leaders of your church, both by"sowing discord," in the church, or on social media? If so pray about you being a peacemaker this week and going to them and having this conversation.



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