It was probably about 25 years ago when I first noticed it. I mean I’d read it before. In fact it was in what has always been in one of my favourite books of the bible…
1 Corinthians. But it was the first time I really realised what it was saying.
And I had a choice…ignore it…because it seemed like most did…or do what it said. (While often falling well short along the way.)
First Corinthians is one of those letters where you can almost feel Paul’s frustration as he writes it. “Don’t you know?” is a phrase he uses over and over. After all this time, how are you still living at this level…you really should know better.
The passage that hit me that day is in chapter 6. Paul is writing here about the Corinthians taking each other to court.
At first it appears that he is amazed that there are no mature people among them who could handle the various squabbles they were having.
But then he takes the conversation to another level by asking two simple questions, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” Instead of finding someone to solve this, why don’t you allow yourself to be wronged. For the sake of…(the other, the community, your witness, etc)
This is where the internal dialogue kicks in…
“Wait you mean, if I’m in a situation and someone lies about me…or takes advantage of me…I should just allow it?”
“Well, you’ll need to forgive them as well.” **
I did not like that passage.
In fact it still goes against my natural inclinations. I can go through situation after situation in my life, explain the circumstances and you’ll see that what happened to me should not have happened. And perhaps you’ll agree that I shouldn’t have to be treated that way.
But regardless of the circumstance, at the end the question is still, “Why not allow yourself to be (using the more modern vernacular) screwed over?”
While this goes against the grain for most people, as an American, I learned the phrase, “I have rights,” from a young age. People fought for our rights. We need to defend our rights. Our rights are costly.
After 25 years of wrestling with that passage, when something happens to me, my rights pretty quickly come to the forefront of my mind. My legal rights…or even my relational rights…”after all I’ve done, this is how I’m treated.”
(am I the only one who thinks like this?)
And yet our example is someone with more rights than we could ever imagine, laying all of them aside…for us.
In fact laying down his life despite the fact that at any time he could have called legions of angels to come to his aid to protect and defend him.
But like so many things it really comes down to fear and trust…what if I allow this…if I don’t defend myself? Well, then you place yourself firmly in God’s kingdom.
I was thinking about this topic again last week before hearing the comments of the president of Liberty University encourage people to carry weapons so that they can kill their enemies.
“Take up arms. Kill your enemies.”
“Take up your cross. Deny yourself.”
That is a pretty wide spectrum. And we all fall along it somewhere…the question of course is “Where?” Which citizenship do we more closely align ourselves with?
What wins…trust or fear?
Where do you normally feel that tug to defend your rights rather than laying them down?
[note: **Please do not read this as a call to remain in abusive situations. There are times when we are wronged, we forgive and relationships are restored. And times when we need to work at forgiveness, while just as importantly getting ourselves out of that situation. Likewise do not read it as saying there should never be consequences for behaviour. We can allow the legal system to mete out the punishment it deems necessary, but we are called to not take revenge, rather we are called to seek good for the other.]