One of the side effects of being a citizen of the United States is I have a mindset that I have certain “rights”. Our Declaration of Independence asserts the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our Bill of Rights asserts a variety of rights, including the right to bear arms, the right to due process of law (before losing life, liberty, or property), the right to trial by jury, public trial, and protection from double jeopardy. Freedom of assembly, religion, and speech are among those protected rights.
If you listen to the media, you may learn of other rights: the right to free health care, the right to not be offended, the right to not hear about somebody else’s religion, the right to not be disagreed with, the right to reparations for what my great-great-great grandfather may or may not have done to your great-great-great grandfather, and the right to abortion on demand (if you’re a woman).
Of course, the second set of rights is in direct conflict with the first set, but nobody seems interested in talking about that. Here is the dirty secret: you have NO rights. The right to life does not help a murder victim or the victim of an abortion. In many countries, speaking your mind will get you a very long prison sentence. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience a kangaroo court, otherwise you just rot without the pretense of defending yourself. Rights do not actually exist. There are privileges that are granted in certain countries, but no rights.
So, what do we actually have? We have responsibilities. We have the responsibility to love only God. We have the responsibility to not commit murder. We have the responsibility to not lie. We have the responsibility to not steal. The ten commandments are the ten responsibilities. As long as you maintain them, you are in great shape. Unfortunately, I have broken, or plotted to break, almost all of them. By the age of five, every person I know has found themselves in trouble.
Watch five-year-olds at play some time. They have two concepts clear in their mind: Property rights and covetousness. Attempt to take a toy away from a child and you will hear a screech of, “MINE!” or a howl of tears and misery. The child clearly understands the concept of owning a toy. Watch for a little longer and one of the children will attempt to take a toy away from another child. The parents will probably be embarrassed, but their darling angel is now a thief.
By age five, almost every child has stolen. We don’t need to teach children this, we teach them how to share. I don’t know when the age of accountability is. It may be as young as 5, or as old as 25. What I do know is that it doesn’t take long for us to violate our responsibilities. We fight, steal, covet, lust, lie, and reject God at a very early age. Just as in US law, a violation of the law means you start losing rights, so it is under God’s law. We are all sinners; guilty of high crimes against the Almighty. We have no rights.
Fortunately, we do have grace. You deserve no good thing. By grace, good things happen to you anyway. One of the questions we hear a lot is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” There has only ever been one good person, Jesus. Why bad things happened to him are two-fold: 1) he allowed it. 2) What he did in coming to Earth was similar to dropping a baby lamb into a pit with starving lions. We all know what would happen.
You are not a good person. You are a sinner. You have no rights, but you can have grace. We are all under a certain amount of grace already. The fact that we didn’t annihilate each other in the 60s is proof enough of that. The fact that we manage to have reasonably civilized societies is grace.
However, God offers a way to greater grace. You deserve to be in that maximum security cell. Jesus already went in. Let him list your name as one of the people he went in place of. Let him deal with the horrors inside for you. Pleading innocent will not work. Pleading guilty is not enough. The price is paid, if you will allow the worst injustice of all time to be for your benefit.
If the thought of a little, cute, fluffy, cuddly lamb taking your place in the lion’s den sounds horrible, and you would never allow it, you understand the problem many people face with accepting Christ. It is hard. The key to being able to stomach it is this, the lamb will take SOMEBODY’s place. The lamb will take the place of several people. You cannot stop the injustice of such a thing, but you can benefit from it. Jesus has already died for you. Jesus has already been scourged for you. Jesus has already been humiliated for you. It is up to you whether, in your case, it was for nothing.
This Good Friday, I encourage you to watch Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. When Christ is beaten, do not look away… he did it for you. When Christ stumbles, do not look away… he did it for you. When Christ writhes in agony on the cross, do not look away… he did it for you. If you cry as I do when I watch it, do not be ashamed of your tears. By his stripes you are healed… if you will accept his gift. You have no rights. Will you accept grace?