Laying Down My Rights
By Anthony Casperson
This past Sunday, we were singing the song Surrender by Lincoln Brewster. As we sang one of the verses, we came across the words “I'm giving you my dreams, Laying down my rights, Giving up my pride, for the promise of new life.” The thought about lying down my rights made my mind start to wander (which might not be a good thing considering that I was running the projector).
I understand that the song is about surrendering everything to Jesus. Our relationship with God is worth far more than anything that this world could offer. But those words: lying down my rights…. In the current atmosphere of the American culture those words are very much needed. If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you can’t go a day without seeing at least 20 posts about people demanding certain rights.
Rights based off of one’s ethnicity. Rights based off of one’s sexual orientation. Rights based off of one’s political stance. Rights based off of one’s core belief system. And I'm not just talking here about people whose worldview differs greatly from my own. There are plenty of times that I want to say, “I agree with your premise, but there are so many better ways to go about discussing your stance.”
I’ve even thought about unfriending someone, not because I disagree with them, but because I get annoyed at their incessant barrage of words aimed at people who aren’t the enemy. All the while, the true enemy skips gleefully, orchestrating this battle that only destroys those who are made in the image of God.
We demand for our rights to be heard. But is that the way of a follower of Jesus? Does laying down our rights only refer to when we deal with God? Our should we be willing to lay down our rights before those made in his image? What if our rights interfere with other people’s ability to receive God’s gift of a relationship with him? Are our rights more important than someone else’s salvation?
If one’s rights were more important than the eternal life of others, none of us would be free from our sin’s condemnation. The second person of the Trinity, whom we know as Jesus, had every right to remain a fully spiritual being. He didn’t have to come to earth in the form of a helpless baby. He is God. He can do anything that is consistent with his own character. His power knows no limits. The right to do as he pleases is his.
But Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that he emptied himself, made himself a servant, and submitted to the limits of humanity, even death. Though there are many interpretations of Jesus “emptying” himself, I believe it means that Jesus voluntarily forfeited himself from his Godly rights. He laid down his rights to the full extent of his Godhood so that he could bring salvation to all who would follow him.
At his resurrection, the Father extended the fullness of his divine rights back to him again (Phil. 2:9). But for those 30+ years, he laid down his rights. When his name was maligned, he didn’t call the Father to smite them, he corrected them with his words. When he was beaten, he didn’t force his pain on others, he prayed for their forgiveness. When he hung on the cross, he didn’t say, “Forget this,” and call for the angels to take him back to heaven, he stayed through the pain and suffering so that a right relationship with God could be given to all who follow him.
Jesus gave up his rights so that we who had no right to stand in the presence of God can be called children of God. This is grace. This is what we are to follow. If it comes down to either our rights or the word of God moving in the hearts of those who have not yet come to follow Jesus, let us lay down our rights.
I know this is difficult to do. I’ve failed more times than I remember. But the call is no less before us. Let’s stop killing each other with our rights and start bringing the life-spring of God to others.