ďJesus died to give us our rights, you know. He gave us our freedoms. We have the right to vote on that.Ē I heard the sentence but couldnít quite believe what I was hearing. The statement came in a heated voice during a congregational meeting. One of my brothers in Christ was objecting to a proposal being discussed concerning our church bylaws. Several others cheered and clapped in the manís support, and I asked myself how and when American Christians got so messed up concerning the things of God. Donít get me wrong. Iím perfectly in favor of Americans having their freedoms. In fact, I encourage others to take advantage of those freedoms and to appreciate their existence. I think the confusion in the American church begins when Christians start to confuse their rights as Americans with their rights as Christians.
Sadly, situations like the one Iíve described happen in church meetings everywhere in this nation. What we need to understand as a people of God is that our first allegiance is not to Americaóit is to the One who shed His blood to redeem us from an eternity in hell. Our first allegiance is to our Lord. Did Jesus die to give us freedoms? Absolutely! But He does not give us the freedoms that an American citizen receives. Jesus came to free us from death, sin and hell. He frees us from bondage and sickness. He frees us from the curse brought upon us by the fall of man.
Did Jesus die to give us rights? Again, absolutely. As followers in Christ, we have become adopted into Godís family as heirs. As heirs to the Kingdom of God, we have the right to use the authority of the name of Jesus. We have the right to Godís protection, assistance, and provision. However, we need to take care concerning the attitude that we carry about these rights. We need to remember that the rights we have as Christians were given to us, not earned. They are borrowed rights, given down to us from a loving ďolder brother.Ē As the firstborn into the Kingdom of God, Jesus owns the birthright. Any rights that we have are a gift from Him. Our rights and privileges were earned by the shedding of His blood. When we accept His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, we receive the rights He gives us, but as bondservants, we immediately give them back to Him. Just as the crowns you will be given in heaven are not yours to keep (they are for throwing at the feet of Jesus), so too are the rights that you have here on earth not yours to keep. We are expected to surrender our rights to our Master. Sometimes we treat Jesus as though we are doing Him a favor by serving Him. American Christians love to talk about service to Christ, but when the word submission comes up, our meetings suddenly get very quiet. But submission is a key ingredient in the Christian life, and we canít bypass it because we donít like the sound of it. When the Lord directs us through His Word, through His Holy Spirit, or through His chosen leadership (yes, this means your pastor, elders, deacons), we are expected to submit to authority. Thereís nothing wrong with making our opinions known. In fact, this should be encouraged so our leaders can receive wise counsel from the membership. But in the end, we must submit to the decisions made by Godís appointed and anointed leaders. It matters little if we like the decisions our leaders make. God holds us accountable for obeying those who are set over us in positions of authority. Do Christians have freedoms and rights? Yes. We have the freedom to choose to follow Christ, and we have the right to be His slave.