Matthew R. Perry

Do Christians Have Any Rights? (Part I: What About Our Dignity?)

In Church Life, Culture, Sermons, Theology on July 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 20, 2008, at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky. To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ [39] But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [41] And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matt 5:38-42)

Do Christians have any rights? Ever since Jesus spoke these words almost 2,000 years ago, this question has been the subject of debate for millennia. The core of this passage is when Jesus says, “Do not resist the one who is evil.” As you can imagine, this opens up a can of worms that needs to be addressed.

Does this mean that Christians cannot serve in the military, especially in a combat situation, since they are fighting against the enemy of the state? Does this mean that Christians cannot serve as law enforcement, since they spend a good amount of time fighting crime (i.e., evil ones)? Does this mean that if a Christian sees someone who is defenseless being attacked that we do not step in?

The Scriptures repeatedly call for Christians not only to help the defenseless, but that God has also established our government and the law enforcement to help maintain order and to protect their respective citizenship! What Jesus is referring to is when some attacks you personally! How do we respond? Do we say, “I’ll get you” in an eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth attitude? If not, how do we respond?

This morning, we shall look at four areas Jesus addresses in these verses: our dignity, our security, our liberty, and our property and see where our foundation lies and where our treasure belongs.

1. Does a Christian have a right to his dignity?

In Matthew 5:39b, Jesus says, “But if anyone slaps you on the right check, turn to him the other also.” Only humans truly understand what it means to treat one another with dignity. Because each of us is an image bearer of God, he expects us to treat one another with respect. In fact, the last six of the Ten Commandments deal with respecting and honoring one another: honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against your neighbor, and do not covet. When this is violated, God makes it clear we stand under his judgment!

Yet, in this world we as followers of Christ will be persecuted for the name of Christ. Remember in Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said,

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

While God may not have originally set up the order for this, the truth is that we are fallen creatures marked by the curse of sin. Therefore, these things will happen. So how are Christians to react? It must be noted that to the Jews, a slap in the face was an insult, demeaning the honor of one slapped. In 2008, the principle still exists. When we have been insulted or treated poorly by another, how do we respond?

Jesus tells us to “turn to him the other [cheek] also.” We are not to take this like the Scottish preacher who preached that when struck on the one cheek, then yes turn to him the other. But if he strikes you a third time, let him have it!

Our response is that we are not to retaliate, but to remain gentle and humble, even when our dignity is maligned by another. Again, we must keep in mind that this is dealing with our personal dignity. Keep in mind 1 Peter 2:21-23:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. [22] He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. [23] When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When your dignity is damaged, do you feel it is your right to retaliate and defend your honor, all the while demeaning theirs in return?

  1. […] Treasure The Word Displaying the treasure of God’s Word in our Culture and the Church « Do Christians Have Any Rights? (Part I: What About Our Dignity?) […]

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