A friend and I were talking last week about the rights we have in our country vs. the ‘rights’ we have as citizens of Heaven. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since that conversation. Being from
North America, I was raised with the understanding I have certain ‘inalienable’ rights which no one may take from me. Whether we’re born into our citizenship or are granted it later, these rights come along with it. We don’t have to take a second test or fill out another application. They are a part of it, and we have a ‘right’ to our rights.
What about our Heavenly citizenship? Nothing about that citizenship is ours by natural right. Instead, it is a gift paid at great cost by the only One who truly is a citizen. By coming to save us, in essence He exchanged His rights for ours. It would be like a mother sacrificing her right to freedom of speech so her child could have it instead. Or the judge giving up his right to liberty for the new citizen he is swearing in. Hmmm…
Jesus had the ‘right’ to stay in Heaven in perfect communion with His Father and the Holy Spirit. He had the right to be worshiped by those He created. He had the right to condemn us to the hell we deserve. And yet, He chose to give up those rights. He chose to become human, taking on the limits of flesh. Instead of being worshiped, He chose to be spit on and beaten. Instead of taking the easy way out, He chose to resist the devil’s temptations. Instead of living His life for Himself, He chose to give it up for our sakes. He could have called down angels to defend Himself. Instead, Jesus chose to remain silent as He was sent to a brutal death.
Hey wait, some might argue, Jesus didn’t always keep quiet. That is true. He did speak out, at times forcefully. There are times when Christ-followers are called to stand up for rights. But, whose rights? Jesus did not get indignant when HIS life was made difficult. Instead, He became angry when the leaders and teachers of the law made the lives of the poor, despised and rejected more burdensome.
How about me? When I am tempted to assert my rights, I need to reflect on the One I am called to reflect. I do have rights. They are the rights given to me by our Savior, which means they need to be in step with how He lived. The right to be rejected for His sake. The right to speak up on behalf of those unable to speak for themselves. The right to be all things to all people so that some may come to a saving knowledge of Christ. The right to lose my life so I may find it. The right to deliberately choose not to exercise my ‘earthly’ rights.
Ouch. This hurts. It’s totally unfair. Oh, shoot. That gets to the heart of things, doesn’t it? We were not treated fairly by God. Fair would have meant condemnation. Instead, through Jesus, we are given everything, when we deserved less than nothing.
Our Holy God lives in us because Jesus set aside His rights, and in this way saved us, and brought His Father glory. As sinful, broken, created beings, we ruined our relationship with our Creator, destroying any rights we may have had. So, technically we’re not even being asked to give anything up! Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. We need to lean on Jesus, our teacher and Savior, allowing His Spirit to help us in this.
Today I am praying for God’s grace to set aside my ‘rights’. I am praying for the courage to speak out for those who cannot speak. Even more, I’m praying for the strength to keep quiet when the only thing at stake is my ‘right’ to be right. In this small way, I pray I can point others to Jesus. He truly did have the right to all things, and yet through choosing to give up Heaven, He has given us its citizenship. One day we will be Home, and all the rights of that land will be ours. Until that day, may we live expectantly, surrendering our rights here in anticipation of the glorious freedom we will have there!