Wednesday, 13 December 2017 08:44

Defending Our Rights

Written by  Sam Whatley
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Years ago, a construction foreman lost his job because he would not substitute cheaper materials for the ones called for in the blueprint. The project manager was cutting corners to pad the owner’s pocket. The foreman did not challenge the company in court. He lost his income, but gained a reputation for being honest. He forgave the one who persecuted him.

 

We live in a society where lawsuits are as common as cell phones. Everyone seems to want their day in court. Some seek to reasonably correct an injustice, but many just want to receive a pile of money. Yet is that what Christians should do?

 

There are legitimate reasons for civil court, but much of the time people just need to overlook an insult and forgive an injury. But that is hard to do. It goes against everything we have been taught. We have our pride. We dare defend our rights.

 

What did Jesus have to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount?

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye; and tooth for tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42) NIV.

 

How different all that sounds to us, even in our churches. Through the years I have seen church congregations fighting their denominations over who owns their buildings. Each side believes they have the legal right to the property. But what about how all of this looks to a watching world?

 

If the strife and hurt between friends, families, pastors, and congregations keeps someone from attending church for years, what have we really gained? Most who fight that battle have come to realize the property is not worth the pain and strain. Better to walk away and pray for those who remain, even if you feel persecuted. Which reminds me of Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church.

 

“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” (I Corinthians 6:7, NIV).

 

Jesus never advised his followers to get even. He always pointed the way to peace and reconciliation.  But, don’t we have rights? Sure we do, but our Lord is after something more precious than our rights. He wants us to love our neighbors so much that our witness to a dying world is worth more to us than having our way.

 

If we want to have an influence for Christ, we are not likely to have it with a fist or a lawsuit. Our weapons are not of this world. Whenever we depend on the courts and the ballot box to force Christianity onto a pagan world, we are missing the point. Those of the world can out-threaten us, but they cannot out-love us. They cannot show greater compassion, deeper forgiveness, or longer patience than we can, because we have the Holy Spirit.

 

But, you may say, “What about the lawyers and organizations that seem bent on taking away our religious rights and freedoms? Aren’t they enemies of Christ?”

 

Yes, they are. But remember, when we attack those who represent our spiritual enemy, we can sound and look just as bitter and hateful as they do. If we do not forgive our enemies we become like those who want to destroy unborn children and deny the holiness of Scripture.

 

Let’s show those who wrong us that God has changed our lives and that we love them in spite of whatever they may do or say. Our Advocate sits at the right hand of the Lord of Heaven’s armies. We shall not fear what man can do to us. We can always take our case to a higher court, a much higher court.

 

 

**Sam Whatley’s latest book, Ponder Anew, is now available at the Frazer Bookstore located inside Frazer Memorial UMC.

 

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