Today is Memorial Day, the day we stop to observe the sacrifice that millions of men and women have made for our nation. We honor those who have given the last full measure of devotion to secure our freedom and the freedom of others. Every time someone lays down his or her life for another person it is reflective of the love that Jesus taught us about and displayed through his life, and death on the cross. No, their deaths are not redemptive like Jesus’ but they do remind us of the greater spiritual truth, and the greatest example of selfless love and devotion.
I pray that as we reflect on those who gave all in service to our nation we are also challenged to consider the type of selfless life that God calls us to. In a recent post the assertion was made that love trumps our freedom, even the freedom we have in Christ. Today I submit that the gospel of Jesus Christ trumps our rights. I know that sounds radical especially since “rights” have become sacrosanct in our culture. All one must do is claim that a certain belief or preference is a “right” and all argument must cease and the government is expected to subsidize it. Some rights are legitimate and many of these have been outlined in American civil culture in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. However, these days it seems en vogue to simply claim that my behavioral preferences are “rights” while they certainly are not. I digress. The point is not what is and is not a right, the point is that for the Christian there is something that overrides rights – the gospel.
Paul expresses this truth so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. He claims at least three legitimate rights as an apostle in the opening verses of the chapter (to eat and drink, the bring along a believing wife, to receive monetary support from the churches). However, the meat of his argument is not that he wants these things from the Corinthians, but that “instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12).”
The word translated “hinder” is only used here in the New Testament and it refers to an incision, not like a surgeon would make, but like a trench. In warfare trenches are designed to keep “them” from getting to “us” and the last thing in the world Paul wants to do is create an obstacle between the gospel and the people who need it. The question is, are you doing anything that hinders people from getting to the gospel? Are you doing anything that is hindering your family from getting to the gospel? Is your church doing anything that is hindering people from getting to the gospel?
The second question is this, what are you willing to give us for the sake of the gospel? Paul says, “I gave up my legitimate rights because the gospel was more important than me getting what I was allowed.” The New Testament and church history are saturated with people who gave up everything for the gospel. It should be no wonder that they came to this conclusion because Jesus calls those who follow him to, “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).” Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said that when Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die. Too often we are not even willing to give up the simplest and most basic things, like our preferences and prejudices.
We need to begin asking ourselves as individual Christians, as parents, as church members, “what am I willing to give up for the sake of the gospel?” The answer is that everything should be on the table, everything should come under scrutiny if it does not move the mission forward. These are tough questions that require an immense amount of honesty and courage because they are dangerous. They are dangerous because they may require change, to which we humans are universally averse to one degree or another.
So, what’s it going to be? What are you doing that is hindering the gospel? What are you willing to give up for the sake of the gospel?