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Friday, August 16, 2013

Defending My "Rights"

Mat 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (NIV)

One Wednesday evening while teaching in an adult Bible study, it happened. I had studied. I had prepared. I was excited about the subject matter I was teaching. I love what God has called me to do. This one night, however, I realized that not everyone else was loving what I was doing as much as I was. In the course of my teaching, someone spoke out and aggressively challenged what I had just said. I was taken aback by the sudden outburst. I was slightly embarrassed and more than slightly feeling disrespected. Knowing how I should have responded, I chose to speak first and think second. I had a right to defend myself. So, I did. I defensively responded that his challenge was irrelevant because he hadn't heard all that I said because he had come in late. Was I "right" in what I said. If the question is "did I have my facts straight?" then the answer is "yes." Did I have a "right" to defend myself? In the eyes of my culture, "you bet." Did I win anything of sustainable honor in the eyes of God by doing so? "Not a chance." I had chosen to allow my emotions to lead my words, rather than let my heart lead my emotions.

Joseph had every right to dismiss Mary from his own fellowship and from his commitment to marry her. She was pregnant. It wasn't "his" and they were not yet married. As normal as it has become to contemporary pop-culture, it was seen as both a disgrace and an executable offense of that day. Joseph had ever "right" to have made a public spectacle of her. In his eyes and in the eyes of the public she had invited insurmountable shame and irrefutable disgrace upon the goodness of his name and reputation. Rather than to humiliate her, Joseph chose to dissolve their relationship in a manner that would honor God and honor Mary. His love for her and his love for God would not be undone by his own emotions nor his embarrassment and bruised ego. He forfeited the "rights of his culture" for right-standing before God. This heart and attitude facilitated Joseph's being able to receive the revelation of the Holy Spirit by which he discovered that this was God's divine intervention.

Imagine if Joseph would have responded to the "red flashes" of anger at finding out that his public reputation had just been thrown "under the bus." Ponder for a moment how his place in history would have been jeopardized, or at the least, limited, if he would have gone the way of "common sense." To fight for his redemption in the eyes of public opinion at the cost of another was his right, and in most cases, his mandate. He chose a higher calling.

Just because you have the RIGHT to do something doesn't resolve you to carrying out that "right" in a manner that adjudicates or appeases your feelings. In all that you do, you are to do it through the eyes of the LOVE OF JESUS. You are to love others by loving Him. Your love of others is a reflection of your love for Him. Never forget, no matter how difficult it may seem in the moment, you can love others, because it was HE WHO FIRST LOVED YOU. You may be frustrated with certain people for specific and valid reasons. Inevitably, this will be your reality. There will be those who speak before they think. There will be seasons when you feel as though your "rights" have been attacked, trampled on, and utterly dismissed. It will be in THAT moment you prove the strength and integrity of God's love in your life. How you respond to the infractions to your "rights" will reflect the level of the integrity of your heart and your trust in Him.

Joseph's humility opened his heart to receiving the true revelation of what God desired to accomplish. Joseph was a part of what God wanted to do. Humility and "giving up his rights" opened the door to something much greater. My Wednesday night Bible study experience gave me a similar lesson and opportunity. Though I had failed by trying to defend my "rights," I soon responded to the quick prodding of the Holy Spirit to publicly apologize, rather than defend. Later that evening, I made a personal appeal to the individual. As we talked, there had been a misunderstanding in communication that had caused him to interpret something I said in a way that I hadn't intended. There were no rights that needed proven or defended; only hearts that needed humbled and reconciled. Trust God. He is your defender.

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