“Gratitude starts where my sense of entitlement ends.”
– Steven Furtick
What rights do you have? What rights do you think you have? Pictures and memes are regularly floating around the internet world declaring our right to happiness, our right to respect, and our right to do what we want. Just be happy and ditch everyone and everything that would stand in the way of that happiness is our motto nowadays. In Christianese, “God wants you to be happy, so follow your heart”. God, however, is not primarily concerned about our happiness but our holiness. God never said, “Be happy as I am happy”, rather He said, “Be holy as I am holy”.
I had never spent much time considering my own personal sense of entitlement until I moved overseas. I was suddenly in the hated, discriminated minority. I was stopped thirteen times in twelve months in the car – for no reason other than my skin color and the expectation of a bribe. I was charged a higher price at the market because I was an outsider. I was denied permission to work because I might bring an unfavorable “outside influence”. I was stared at continually every time I left my house, and I was robbed. After the first year or two, I began to really feel my sense of entitlement emerge. You can be gracious and laugh things off for a while, but when you truly believe that you have rights to work, to be happy, to be respected; not getting those things begins to wear on you.
Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
– 1 Cor 7.20-24
We, as Christians, are to be concerned about justice because God is concerned about justice. But it is not our primary goal. Our primary goal is to become holy, just as God is holy. We are to follow Jesus’ example. We are to be content in the situation in which we are, and to glorify God in and through it.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
– Phil 2.5-8
Jesus humbled Himself. He deserved to be glorified as God, because He is God, but yet He became a servant. He taught His followers that we should also become servants, turn the other cheek when we suffer an injustice, and trust God who will exact vengeance and reward holiness appropriately. This is part of what Jesus meant when He said we must die to ourselves. If we are slaves, we should seek to be the best slaves that we can be. If we are hated foreigners, we must seek to be the best example of Christ and His love that we can be.
This does not mean that we become a floor mat to be trampled on, necessarily. But most countries around the world do not provide a forum for such injustices to be addressed. We might appeal to Amnesty International or the UN for support, but in general and in our every-day experience, we should seek to love as we have been loved, to serve as a true and humble servant and to die to ourselves. It is not about me, and it is not about you. It is about God. And if God Himself can humble Himself to the point of being murdered on false charges, then I can suffer racial discrimination with a Godly perspective and humility. What can you suffer?
It is only when we lose our sense of entitlement that we can recognize the gifts of God as gifts. If we deserve to be happy and to get everything that we want, then we cannot recognize the gift of a job, the gift of health, the gift of comfort. If we deserve to be respected, then we cannot recognize the gift of friendship or the gift of responsibility. If we deserve eternal bliss then we cannot recognize the gift of salvation. God did not owe it to us to offer us salvation through Jesus Christ. Let’s die to ourselves today and seek to be Holy, being thankful for our comforts and our trials that produce perseverance. Let’s be grateful.