Demand or Yield your rights?

As Christian Americans we live a life that is pulled in two directions, demand for rights, and a calling to lay down our rights.
I imagine those Jewish boys, aka the disciples, had a similar struggle. In fact, a survey of Church history proves that millions of believers have struggled for national rights, and yet strived to practice yielding of their rights as Scripture calls them to.
    Recently in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, a church and pastor have been pressed to walk this line. (the local Advocate News Paper Article) On one hand they were told to lower the volume of their service while in a temporary tent, conflicting with what they believe are their American rights. On the other hand they are commanded by Scripture to obey those in leadership over them (Romans 13:1-7) and to demonstrate Christ to their neighbors, even those that hate them (Romans 12).
    It seems that not only is the church divided, but also pastors responding to the news of this situation. Most of my friends have hailed this court case as some sort of religious persecution. I believe my immigrant friends, who fled their respective countries due to true persecution, would severely disagree with the pastors’ claim. The local population’s response has too been divided, but not in the same camps. Some have responded that there are rights being encroached upon, but the others have a sadder response. The majority of what I hear in the community is, “I would never attend that church because of how the Pastor has responded to the situation.”
    In my pastoral internship, which culminated with my ordination, my supervising pastor Dr Landon Dowden encouraged me to memorize Romans 12. He often said something along the lines, this chapter should be the description of your pastorate and your life. It is here that we are confronted with a biblical command that highlights how we should respond when we (or a particular church) are confronted by an individual.
Romans 12:14-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I’d like to remind you Jesus, God in flesh, had eternal heavenly rights. Yet Jesus, our example, humbled himself, became a man, suffered and died for crimes he did not commit. Whatever level of rights we give up for the sake of the Gospel, they will always pale in comparison to the rights Jesus gave up.

If all pastors were to proclaim and then live out Romans 12 before their congregations they might combat those who are rearticulating Ghandi’s quote. “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

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