Sometimes I get a little weary of hearing about people’s rights.
If you read any history, it is worth being aware that many people groups in society have been unjustly downtrodden, and regarded simply as “less”. Quite rightly, reactions to such insults have brought many Revolutions across the globe. It is not a new thing. It behoves us as Christians to fight on behalf of the poor, the neglected and disadvantaged.
What I get weary of is the level of posturing and chest-thumping which sweeps all ahead of itself, claiming rights in order to gain preferential treatment over the backs of all others.
Tragically, I see such attitudes often masquerading as highly emotionally manipulative behaviour from some within the church. These are the people who feel seriously slighted when, for example they get a visit from “only” a church member, when they had assumed their problem justified a visit from the senior pastor. They then take offense, and “even if” the senior pastor then went around, they would never let go of the grudge.
I have been recently challenged when studying the second chapter of Philippians with a friend, over the great hymn there about the example of Christ’s humility. The Message translates this section as follows;
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
9 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, 10 so that all created beings in heaven and on earth — even those long ago dead and buried — will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, 11 and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honour of God the Father.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
It is worth remembering that Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi, a Roman colony. Why anyone would exchange deity for humanity was beyond the concept of the Romans, but to then take on – willingly – the status of a slave, was staggering. The wonderful cyclical nature of this hymn reminds us that within the community of Christ, we should not claim special privileges over one another. Rather we should simply serve. It is not for us to self-promote; if God wants to honour us, He will do it in His own way and time.
Now, if we could genuinely translate that servant-attitude to action, and then translate that action to those not yet believers – I think that would be a truly Revolutionary act.