Surely we all have heard it and said it at various instances.
“I have a right to…”
“It’s my right!”
Or at other instances those declarations are implicit rather than explicit. When I become irritated at being interrupted, that irritation exists because I feel it is my right to be able to say my piece. When I start having a heated argument with some of my closest friends, it is clear that I am exercising my right to be right and my right to be heard. When someone makes a small mistake in something they say or do and I correct them even though it was unnecessary I am exercising my right to perfection.
When I exclaim to my friend about how slow he is being, I am exercising my right to everyone functioning on my timetable. When someone screws up at something and I treat them harshly because of it I am exercising my right to correctness. When I one-up someone’s achievements I exercise my right to superiority. When I look out for myself and my interests I exercise the right to self-preservation. When I respond in anger to an insult I exercise the right to honor. When I hold the sin of someone against them I exercise my right to remember.
When I kill someone in self-defense I exercise the right to live.
I thank God daily that He does not exercise His rights. If He did there would be no salvation for any of us. If Christ exercised His right to utter superiority, He never would have condescended to us by becoming one of us. If Christ exercised His right to correctness, all of us would be judged harshly. If Christ had exercised His right to live, there would be no way for our salvation.
Rather, Christ exercised His grace in love. Grace means giving up your rights for the sake of another. As Christians we are called by Christ’s example which we profess to follow to lay ourselves down through the rejection of our rights in order to more perfectly become the servants of those around us. Rights are about the consideration of self, grace is the consideration of others. Because of this it is our holy mandate and privilege to lay down that which we by rights are owed and instead place the rights of others before ourselves. Because we love we give grace. Because we give grace we do not require our rights to be observed by others.
Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is obviously only possible through dependence on God’s provision and providence, not only to enable us to behave this way but also to sustain us if we do not look out for our own interests. Regardless brothers and sisters, I exhort you to remain dependent on God in this fashion. Please lay down your rights and encourage me to lay down mine so that we may follow in the example that has been set before us as the race to run.