Pastor's Corner; Zion Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Waiving your rights
Last updated 7/4/2014 at 8:51am
This week, we're reminded of the freedoms we enjoy. But, those who hear the words of Jesus soon begin to experience a tension, to say the least. We have rights. Rights! There's a whole Constitution full of them, and there's been case law piling up for well over 200 years which expands much of that. These words ring out (let freedom ring!) throughout the land. Yet, when Jesus speaks, his words don't ring out in quite the same way. In fact, life in the kingdom of God looks much different.
What does it look like? Jesus says it means not resisting an evil person. It means turning the other cheek when someone strikes or dishonors you. It means giving more than what somebody is suing you for. It means walking farther with someone who has forced you to serve them. Yes, hearing Jesus' words is neither comfortable nor convenient. Even more, the minute we start asking for every exception, we've missed the spirit of Jesus' words. Whether we like it or not, he's saying that it's better for someone to take advantage of us than it is for us to seek revenge. It's better for us to be cheated and coerced than it is for us to fight persistently and stubbornly for our rights. Jesus actually invites us to leave behind our claims to anything in this world.
Easier said than done, I suppose. But, you know what? Jesus did it. He was literally struck in the face by members of the religious Council. Flogged. Stripped. Crowned with thorns. Mocked. Spit on. Struck repeatedly. Forced through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying his own cross. Crucified. What's Jesus doing? Doesn't he, of all people, have rights? Sure. He's the Son of God, and he has every right to fight back. But, Jesus waives them. He willingly turns the other cheek. He gives his cloak to those who would take it. He walks the great distance from the Council, to Pilate's seat, and finally to Golgotha.
Jesus may be an extraordinary example for us, but he's much more than that. Jesus died turning the other cheek, but even more, he was raised from the dead. Jesus. Is. Alive. He has conquered death and evil forever. Even now, it's all for you. He offers that victory and life to you by his blood shed on the cross and by his resurrection. Salvation is yours. If that's true, why all this uncomfortable stuff? It's in this Jesus - living and victorious - that we receive life worth holding onto. When people die, whether dirt poor or masters of the mansion, pockets will be empty, bodies rotting, with nowhere to turn (they're dead!). But when Christ returns, those who abide in his word - who have found refuge and life in the kingdom of God - will be raised to life, receiving an eternal treasure from our Lord. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."