Don’t Fight For Your Rights
February 19, 2016 — 1 Corinthians 9:1–7
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
One of my favorite things about Paul is that he is ready to put himself under the magnifying glass to let people take a good look and see if he is really what he says he is. His story is completely different than the other apostles, and he plays by different rules than everyone else. In this passage Paul is setting up the idea that even though he is entitled to certain rights, he is willing to give them up for the sake of the gospel.
We really like the language of rights here in the States. We like to discuss if people are entitled to one thing or another. We fight about if that entitlement mentality ends up crippling us. We debate how big of a role that the government should have in protecting rights. The problem is that our motivation is more focused on protecting our rights, rather than in laying them down in love.
Don’t get me wrong. We have a voice in our government, and we have the freedom to use it. The Bible was not written in the context of democracy, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have a lot to say about topics like submitting to authority, and importantly for this context, how we should view our rights.
Just because we are entitled to something doesn’t mean that we should fight to have what we deserve. The life of faith is built upon the fact that we aren’t given what we ought to have. If that were the case we would have no chance of salvation. It may sound over-played, but every good thing in life is truly a gift. When we get hung up on losing what we think we deserve we act like children who are mad at their dad taking a French fry out of their bag before giving it to them.
When we engage with our society we need to not focus on protecting our own rights, we need to focus on protecting others rights. That means that sometimes we are going to get the raw end of the deal. I live in a society where I have things pretty easy, and in a lot of ways it would be nice to not have that change. It would be very easy for me to live a very comfortable life. But for the good of others I ought to lay down what is good for me so that I can give it to someone else.
We must not fall pray to the temptation to make other people our enemies. Our enemy is the prince of the powers of the air. We are not supposed to struggle against flesh and blood. For that reason we ought to spend more time praying for our country, and less time fighting to make it a nice place for us to hang out.