I love America. I love the rights we have in America. I am forever grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed so much so that I can have these freedoms. I am thankful that God has placed me in this country; I am free. I think bred in every American is the idea of personal rights, and we do not like people telling us anything different. I, much like you, do not like being told what to do. I am also quick to respond with something along the lines, “I have my rights!” I can remember trying that as a kid when told do to something I did not agree with. I shouted, “I have my rights!” which was quickly met by my parents as, “You have the right to obey.” It did not work out very well for me.
The concept of rights is something that we as Americans have trouble laying down. I myself can tend to convolute my American rights with my walk with Christ. Now before you stop reading and angrily bunch me in with the anti-American cancel culture group, we need to remember that I said I love America and I believe God has enormously blessed us, but our American citizenship is different than our spiritual identity. Our priorities as Americans are different than our spiritual priorities. Just as the Bill of Rights, Constitution, and each Amendment clearly spell out those rights and priorities as Americans, the Bible spells out what should be our spiritual priorities.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, the Apostle Paul is having a conversation about rights and freedoms. Is it not crazy that they were having similar conversations 2,000 years ago? Paul shows us as Christians what our priority should be. In 1 Corinthians 9:12b, Paul says, “Neverless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Though Paul understood that he had the right to monetary support from the churches, he laid it aside for a greater goal. By doing so he shows Christians that our ultimate priority and mission is the Gospel and seeing it change people from the inside, save them from their sins, and free them from the bondage of hopelessness that comes with that sin. Even if it gets in the way of our benefits, this must be our mindset.
What exactly is this Gospel that I am talking about? The Gospel simply translated is “the good news.” You may have been in church all of your life or only a few times and have heard this term and wondered, “What does this mean?” The good news of the Gospel is that God created a perfect world with nothing bad in it. He created a perfect man and woman and had a perfect relationship with them. Despite the perfect world in which they lived, they chose to disobey God’s command and do what they wanted. Because of this, their perfect relationship with God was broken, sin entered the world, and every person ever born was and is born into that bondage (Romans 3:23). The punishment for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). God saw our brokenness and sin and still desired to save us and so He sent His perfect son Jesus to die on a cross in our place (John 3:16). Jesus died so that we could have life. God now offers that free gift of life to whoever would ask and receive it (Romans 10:13). The Gospel is as simple as realizing our sin, desperate need for a Savior, and receiving that free gift of salvation that was paid for by Jesus. How incredible is that! It is not just good news, but the best news!
I do not want to offend you, and I realize that by bringing up our “rights” I may have already done so. I love you and would never want to do that! However, Paul is really clear that for us as Christians, the priority of the Church is not our rights and the benefits that come from them. While I encourage you to stand up for candidates and political systems you believe in, and I am so grateful to have this freedom, if these rights get in the way of the Gospel, we need to reprioritize. We are to lay them down. I know that is hard, and not something we like to do. Paul continues in this conversation and closes it powerfully. In verses 19-23, He writes, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
There are two phrases I want to leave you with. The first is “that by all means I might save some.” What an incredible mindset. I lay down my rights when I need to so that maybe one person may see and experience the changing power of the Gospel. The second phrase should be our priority as Christians, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel.” As a believer, are you doing everything for the sake of the Gospel? I am not sure I can answer that question with a solid yes. It is convicting! It is challenging. It is transforming. I encourage the Church to realize our number one priority is the call to the Gospel. It is not just in the church building or when we are gathered with our Growth Communities, but every single day with every action, exchange, and interaction we have. We need to do everything we can to advance the Gospel, regardless of what it may cost us. May God continue to bless the United States of America, but more importantly, may He use His followers to reach the world with His wonderful good news!