My Rights or His Cross

For disciples of Jesus, rage and violence are NOT appropriate reactions to hostility, though certainly, his instructions in this regard are contrary to the “wisdom of this age.” Angry responses by Christians to perceived violations of their political and individual “rights” only demonstrate how far many churches have strayed from his teachings.

The issue is not whether citizens of a country may have individual and political rights, or whether democracy, autocracy, or monarchy is the superior form of government. For disciples of the Nazarene, the question is, how are they to conduct themselves within whatever political structure in which they may find themselves?

Let us begin by considering the issue of persecution. If we become angry over even verbal insults to our faith, how will we respond to genuine and serious persecution? Would we take to the streets in protest, or perhaps riot against our perceived persecutors? Is that what Jesus did?


Instead of the typical human reaction, he instructed HIS disciples to “rejoice and leap for joy” whenever “men hate you and ostracize you, and profane you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man…for great is your reward in heaven.”

Reactions of the latter kind stand in stark contrast to our human tendency to lash out at every infringement on our “rights,” whether real or imagined - (Matthew 5:10-12).

And Jesus left us with a real-world example of how we should show mercy to our enemies. In Gethsemane, an armed mob approached him, determined to arrest Jesus and haul him off to be grilled by the priestly authorities.

Peter reacted all too typically, cutting the ear off the servant of the high priest with his sword. Mind you, if ever there was a man innocent of all charges, it was Jesus.  Surely, this was an incident when violence committed in self-defense was justified. Had not the high priest’s “servant” come armed with a club to arrest him on trumped-up charges?

But Jesus did the unexpected. He touched the man and healed his ear. Mind you, he was under no illusions about what was coming Not many days previously he had warned the disciples that he would be “betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes. And they will condemn him to death… and they shall mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him.”


And after his resurrection, the disciples took his teachings to heart. When Peter and the Apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin, beaten, and ordered to cease preaching, rather than respond in anger, denounce the high priest, or demand their day in court, they went their way “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

Likewise, after being beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel, Paul and Silas spent the night “praying and singing hymns to God” from their prison cell - (Acts 5:41, 16:23-25).

On the “mount,” Jesus exhorted everyone who would follow him to “love your enemies, to pray for them who persecute you,” and to extend mercy to every “enemy” who abuses you. Acts of mercy to one’s enemies are how his disciple emulates God and becomes “perfect” as He is - (Matthew 5:38-48).

He was the only truly righteous man ever to live. If anyone deserved respect for his “rights,” he did. Yet rather than be served, Jesus came “to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” This he did by enduring a horrific and unjust death even for the “enemies of God.” If anything, conforming to the pattern of his death is how his disciple becomes “great in the kingdom of God” - (Matthew 20:28, Romans 5:10).

When interrogated, beaten, and reviled before the High Priest, Jesus reviled not in return. While suffering on a Roman cross, he prayed that his Father would “forgive them, for they know not what they do” - (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:34).

Scripture portrays persecution for the gospel as something disciples should expect and endure, and not only so, but to suffer for Christ is a great privilege and honor, a matter of rejoicing.

Through loud protests and legal machinations, we may avoid persecution but then unwittingly rob ourselves of something of infinitely greater value than a comfortable life.  Like the hypocrites who do their righteous deeds before men, they may already “have their reward,” but NOT “with their Father who is in heaven” - (Matthew 6:1-5).

As for our “inherent rights,” the notion of inviolate civil “rights” that must be defended at all costs is incompatible with New Testament teachings on discipleship, mercy, suffering for the gospel, and the forgiveness of enemies. Failure to do so makes us unworthy of him. To become the "greatest" in the kingdom of God, one must first become the “slave of all.”

The Apostle Paul gave up his “right” to take a wife for the sake of the ministry. Likewise, though as an apostle he had the right to expect financial support, he often abstained from this “right,” and instead, supported himself through manual labor to further the gospel - (Acts 18:3, 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, 9:1-14).

Western-style democracy may provide its citizens with the opportunity to exercise and defend their civil “rights.” However, that belief is altogether different than the teachings and example of Jesus.

In contrast to this world, followers of Jesus are offered the far greater privilege of serving God’s kingdom, and the vast honor of enduring insults, hatred, and even persecution on behalf of its king, and rewards that far outweigh any losses we may incur in this life while we wait for the appearance of our Lord in glory.



The Suffering Servant

The Living Word