Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The art of surrender

Scripture says that money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10), and one can easily see why. Money issues are the number one cause of marital arguments. The economic crisis has politicians pointing fingers. Unemployment has caused tight money situations in families, raising the consumption of alcohol and domestic abuse. Spending has decreased, giving has decreased, and the all mighty dollar has fallen greatly. Some have called the current situation we are in a recession, others have called it a full out depression, and some analyst point to a double dip market. Whatever one might say, it is clear that our nation is in a financial regression, and there have been terrible consequences as a result.

The truth is when we as a nation start losing out on our income, health care, and the lifestyle we have become accustomed to, we get angry and even violent in our protests. Many people outside the U.S. see a country of wealth, but all I see is a country that is desperately poor because we can never have enough and the problem is in our ideology and our language.

While money is certainly dangerous, I think our temptation today is much broader. I see our language and ideology of “rights” as the root of much evil (this certainly includes money).

What has made our country unique from the onset is its understanding of “rights.” Our Declaration of Independence is based on our “rights” as a people. “The Bill of Rights” speaks with language that asserts our “rights” to free speech, “right” to bear arms, “right” to religion and so on. However, I think we have taken this language of “rights” too far. Too often we have added to our language of rights by adding the right to own a home with a two car garage, with two cars, right to have a hefty retirement package to travel on, right to take two vacations a year and be paid to do so, the right to eat out, the right to own a television in each room of our four bedroom home, a computer for the home, a laptop and cell phone for each member of the house, and the right to visit a doctor without paying for it. The truth is our understanding of rights is vague and dangerous. Hauerwas in his book “The Peaceable Kingdom” dedicates many pages to the danger of the ideology and language of rights. Hauerwas believes that the idea of rights leads to the pursuit of violent means to protect them at all cost. While undoubtedly free speech, religion, and free hospital visits are all nice, for a Christian, they are not the crux of existence, and they certainly do not merit us to engage in violence.

In fact, the way of Jesus means the willingness to give up all and any such “rights.” Jesus gave up his “rights” as the Son of God and humbled himself to death on a cross as poetically outlined in Philippians 2:5-11:

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus gave up a lot. If the Son of God was worried about his rights and adamant about exercising them, than the very people who came to arrest Jesus would have been obliterated. If Jesus was worried about his rights, there would have been no incarnation, no crucifixion, no resurrection, no forgiveness of sins which is more important than any rights the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, or Constitution could ever offer. And if anyone would think that this was Jesus the Son of God and we could not possibly dream of ascertaining the same kind of willful surrender, let me draw your attention once again to the first line of this passage which says:

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

In a world of sin how could we possible entertain the idea of rights? The only rights we are given and promised is the rights of an heir of God if we believe and follow Jesus Christ. These rights, this reward, is not fully lived out here on this earth, but is promised with Christ comes to restore all things. To follow Christ means you surrender your rights of this world, to receive the rights of His Kingdom. To follow Christ means we hand over our rights to speak, our rights to bear arms, and even our rights to life itself. However, in surrendering these limited rights, we receive something so much more; we receive eternal life, joy, and unison with God the creator and his Son in his Kingdom.

Violent defense of earthly rights shows that we belong to this world. However, as Christ followers we do not belong to this world (John 15:19; Colossians 2:20) and therefore are called to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog. Thoughtful and inspiring.