Written by 8:00 pm TENACIOUS TUESDAY

When My Rights Make Me Wrong

Allow me to introduce you to Otto. Otto was a long-time worship leader at his church who set his sights week in and week out on faithfully leading the congregation to worship the Lord. But Otto also loved his church and wanted to see the gifts of others edify the church. This made him willing to share his responsibilities with others. Otto was one of those folks who always kept his eyes open for new potential. 

One Sunday Otto became ill and a small group leader had to lead worship in his place. No one but  Otto even knew this guy played an instrument, but worship was pretty awesome that day. As Otto listened to a recording of the worship, he immediately knew this man was born to lead worship. In fact Otto instinctively understood that this man’s gifts probably exceeded his own. 

Worship-leading was Otto’s role in the church, one in which he’d served faithfully, tirelessly, and prayerfully. He certainly felt like he had the right to keep it. Yet after praying and consulting some friends, he approached his pastor and recommended that the new guy be placed in the worship leader rotation. Otto understood that this gifted man could ultimately replace him. 

Why would he orchestrate his own demotion? Because his service for Christ was higher than his ambition for his role. How did Otto arrive there? Two steps positioned him to make his role about his Savior.

Step # 1: Renouncing My Right to My Ministry

If this sounds strange to you, like something out of Alice in Wonderland, it should. Naturally, people don’t aim to bring about their own demise. But stories like Otto’s don’t just happen in fairy tales. They happen anywhere ambitions for Christ exceed our vision for our own gifts. 

Is this way you automatically react in life? If I’m waiting patiently with my turn signal on and another car zooms into the parking space, you will likely see a carnival of carnality spill out of me. You know what I mean. Maybe you did most of the work on a recent project—someone else got all the credit. You’re overlooked again for the ministry position you seem perfectly gifted to do. It’s a long list. Are you like me—thinking first of your rights each time you feel wronged?

Paul directly challenges this way of thinking in his letter to the Philippians. “Have this mind among yourselves,” he writes, “which is yours in Christ Jesus, who . . . did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5–6). These verses sing to the soul. They sound great during our morning devotions and preach well at a Bible study. But what about when we’re called to actually apply them?

It doesn’t take much for me to realize that holding on to pride gets in the way of humility. But my rights? Now you’re getting a little pushy, Paul. Everybody knows that equality is a good thing, right? And doesn’t equality mean we have to protect our ministry rights? And I have rights, inalienable rights if I read the Declaration of Independence correctly. And don’t forget that little thing called the Bill of Rights. 

Step # 2: Acknowledging Christ’s Rights to My Ministry

But who had greater rights than Jesus? He had equality with God—the right to be worshiped by every created thing and the rights of full authority and power over them all. And he gave those up to gain our salvation.

It’s not that rights don’t matter. They do. But to follow Christ means to see allegiance to him as more significant than any right we hold in this life. With Christ and his example ever before us, our view should be distinctly different from the rest of human civilization.

A. W. Tozer once said, “Few sights are more depressing than that of a professed Christian defending his supposed rights and bitterly resisting any attempt to violate them. Such a Christian has never accepted the way of the cross.” The stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world ought to remind us that we live by grace, not by rights. To be a Christian is to recognize that the only thing we have a perfect right to is the wrath of God—and that’s not a right we want to insist on keeping.

God is at work in the heart of his children, replacing our preoccupation with hanging onto our positions and rights with an aspiration to empty ourselves. And when we aim to empty ourselves, our ambition will reflect John the Baptist’s desire to see Jesus increase. 

In the Master’s realm it’s only right that it should be this way.

Tenacious Tuesday Question:

Think of a time your supposed rights were violated. How did you react? What did you do? After reading this, what would you want your reaction to look like?

Prayer:

Lord God, please work in me by the Spirit to conform me to the image of Christ, so that I might have his mind and aim to give myself always in service to others, not cling to my rights.

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Last modified: April 9, 2024
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