When my son started playing baseball, it wasn't long before his team lost a game. His head coach was out of town and so things were already a little rocky. On top of that, the umpire was a 15 year old kid who was uncertain of himself and listened to the opposing team’s coach (I think they were somewhat acquainted with each other) when trying to make calls. On one particular play, our pitcher barehanded a ball on the ground and ran over to tag the runner coming home from third base. Inexplicably, the runner was called safe. Apparently, the opposing coach convinced the ump that the pitcher tagged him with his throwing hand when the ball was in his glove. It wasn’t. But the game was pretty much lost by that point anyway and so our assistant coach did something I was rather proud of. He taught the boys to respect the umpire and his call rather than creating a scene. He presented an example of good sportsmanship.
Whether you agree with the coach’s decision or not, Paul actually urged the believers in Corinth to follow a similar line of thinking when dealing with their own legitimate complaints. Apparently, there were several disputes that had broken out between members of the church and these people had taken each other to court. Paul argued that they should find someone in the church to resolve their disputes rather than taking their disputes into the secular courts and presenting a bad witness to the world. Naturally, not everyone would agree to that and so Paul continued, “Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you act unjustly and cheat – and you do this to believers!” (1 Corinthians 6:7, HCSB).
We live in a society that treasures the rights of the individual and I am glad that we do. We should always respect other people’s rights. But when it comes to our own rights, we should be willing to let go of them when it would advance the work of the kingdom. When that person looks you in the eye and then cuts in front of you, will your witness be greater if you confront them and demand your proper place or if you graciously allow them in and strike up a conversation? When that woman takes your Avon order (and your money) and takes six months to get your order delivered, would the greater witness be to ask what happened and then forgive her or to demand a refund because you didn't get what you paid for when you paid for it?
I am not saying that you should let people run all over you, although it sometimes looks like that. I'm talking about willingly laying down your rights, refusing to cling to what you deserve because the kingdom will grow more through your self-denial. I'm talking about, in those moments where you could demand your rights, intentionally choosing to let them go. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8, NLT).
We should always protect other people's rights but we must also be willing to let go of our own. Just as Jesus gave up what he deserved to reach us, we must be willing to give up what we deserve to reach others.