Today’s Lenten reading is from Matthew 5:23-26 and deals with the idea of forgiveness. Jeren Rowell writes, “forgiveness can seem a scandalous response to the abuses we sometimes suffer. Yet there it is at the heart of the gospel, calling us to lay down our rights and move toward one another from the very impulse that moves God toward us” (Rowell, 48). This statement has been rolling through my mind all day. We talk quite a bit these days in the western world about our rights – and often we talk about these rights regardless of what they may mean for others. Jesus is calling us to a different way, a more holy way.
When we look at the example of Jesus, he had the right to not suffer and die on the cross for each of us. In fact, he could have called legions of angels to remove him from it. But he didn’t. He knew that submitting himself to the way of the Father was a better way, even though it meant he had to suffer in the short term. All to often, the idea of our rights comes up when our comfort is threatened or our ideals are seemingly attacked. In reality, as followers of Jesus, we are called to different way to live. We are called to be peacemakers – not peacekeepers. We need to move past the idea of our rights and toward the idea that we are called to set aside our rights for the benefit of others, just as Jesus did. We are not to be at odds with each other within the body of believers, or with anyone for that matter.
In a day and age where we have all too often lost sight of what it means to live to serve others in ways that puts them above and in front of ourselves, we must be willing to set aside what we think are our rights in order to do that in the example of Jesus. Our judgement gets clouded when we don’t and often pride can set in, which pulls us farther away from Jesus.
My challenge to us in the coming days is for us to examine our motives and what is causing us to cling to our rights while getting in the way of serving others as Jesus would. I think when we allow the Spirit to work on us in this regard, we will find ourselves closer to Jesus that ever before.
On the journey together,
~ Pastor Todd