Recent headlines around the country have caused many Christians to be outraged because of the perceived violation of their First Amendment rights. Many of my dear friends have posted such frustrations on social media outlets claiming everyone else has the free right to speech, except Christians. Here's a link to the Washington Post describing the scenario;
As I pondered this notion of Christians having "rights", I began to wonder, "Maybe it would be a good thing if Christians actually lost their rights to freedom of speech."?! #entitlement
So, before you de-friend me, label me, or other...can we just pause for a moment and think of what you are saying, when you argue you have rights as a Christian in light of the New Testament narrative of God's sovereign plan for creation through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Full Disclosure; I'm a pastor in America. I love my "rights" and privileges as an American, as I sip my coffee at my favorite local hot spots, hoping passerby's are convicted of their propensity to sin watching me read out of my leather bound red-lettered bible, believing that I'm being a good "witness" for Christ #maybetheyllseemycrossnecklacetoo. If you were to ask me where I fall on the political scale (left/middle/right) I would say, "It probably depends on the issue." (let's grab a beer and talk more one day). :) But if we really take a deep look in the Clouded American Gospel Mirror, the entitlement we (as Christians), daily take for granted has very little to do with the biblical notion of "dying to self", "picking up a cross", and "losing yourself for me (Jesus) and the gospel..."
So here are a couple reasons I think it might be a good thing if Christians actually lost their "freedom of speech".
1. We might actually start living our faith out in an intentional, strategic, "Go and make disciples" kind of way. Just think about it...if you couldn't talk about your faith for fear of imprisonment, fine, or worse, you'd think and act quite differently. You'd probably stop believing it's a huge sacrifice to lose a couple hours of sleep on Sunday mornings, to "be blessed" for 59 minutes of Gospel goods and services...your "getting something out of it" desire, "I'm ready for meat" mentality, "they don't have a good children's ministry" mantra, would probably be challenged, if we really took seriously the idea of "what good is it if you gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit your very soul."
2. We might actually be better witnesses of the Gospel. One of the things we've come to realize over the past several decades in American culture, is that we are living in a post-Christian world...Christendom in America is slowly (if not completely), dying (dead). It's not the thing to do anymore to just go to church. It's an intentional act, and sadly, many "non-Christians" know more about what we are against then what we are for...we talk a lot, and it's not always positive and it's not always gracious and it's not always truth. Instead of living with a missionary mentality, to "Go and Make Disciples" we've often reduced this great mandatory charge to handing someone a pamphlet, wearing a sandwich board, or believing in the great myth to "preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." (See Romans 10 for more on this)
So what would it look like if we had no rights as Christians? I think we'd see a far better picture of the church in America, then we see today. We might identify ourselves with our brothers and sisters around the world who are actually living this out, and truly "considering it pure joy" when they face such trials. (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-persecution-of-christians-in-2013) One of Jesus great promises as he was nearing death was that, "In this world, we would have trouble...", and I don't think he meant the "trouble" you experience when the barista is super slow at 9:52 on a Sunday morning, which causes you to be late for the 10am service. #sacrificeforthegospel #goodjob
Friends, the Gospel story is about God...the greatest love story ever told. It's a story that reveals we actually have no rights (see Ephesians 2 on this)...yet in an incredible shift of grace, one day, as full heirs of the Kingdom...we have been given the right to say we belong to God. This however, it's not a "right" of yours, it's a privilege for sure, not granted by any American court, nor to be taken by one.
So please, by all means, let's give thanks for all the rights as Americans we are entitled too, and not confuse those with rights we think we have as Christians...the two are quite different. If those rights get taken away, maybe...just maybe, we can rejoice in the opportunity we are given to live in real tangible, sacrificial kind of way. That we might truly hear Jesus when he says, "...come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…"