Part 2 of 4
The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill (2012) is currently before a Senate Inquiry and, looking at the submissions, it seems like a lot of Christians are concerned. This series cover my reasons for not joining them in opposing the bill.
when there’s competing rights, the other person wins
Christians don’t cling onto their rights. They give them up.
Paul in the New Testament explains that when Christians conflict, they don’t fight it out, they give up their rights.
One brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.
Radical I know. But Jesus goes further; don’t just give up your rights for another person, wish them well, even serve them when they violate your rights.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Jesus didn’t just say this – he did it. Silent before his accusers, he didn’t even open his mouth.
Rights and obligations go together. When someone claims a right, someone else receives an obligation.With the current situation, where the right not to face discrimination (and associated obligations) possibly conflicts with the right to religious freedom, someone will have to be vulnerable as they serve the interests of the other party.
So either churches and Christians will be the vulnerable party, or people with disabilities, LGBTI people, migrants, older people, women and others will be vulnerable.
These groups aren’t even our enemies, they’re our friends. Many of them are our Christian sisters and brothers! Let’s put their interests before ours and allow ourselves to be the vulnerable party. Let’s not insist on our rights.
facing discrimination is part of being a christian
I can’t stand Christians with a persecution complex. You know. The type who complain when a ‘latte sipping lefty’ made some kind of slur against Christianity. ‘They wouldn’t have said that about Muslims or Buddhists!’, they whinge.
Firstly – perhaps the latte-sipper has a point, maybe you should pause and consider their critique (see The difference between persecution and being corrected). Secondly – what it is to you what the latte-sipper says about Buddhists? You take up your cross, stop complaining and keep following Jesus.
Now I seriously doubt the proposed legislation will lead to greater discrimination against Christians. But even if it might, I’m not sure that’s something to complain about.
The New Testament portrays religious discrimination as something to expect, as part of being Christian.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
So persecution is expected, but should we try to minimise or avoid it? Should we assert our ‘right’ to ‘religious freedom?’ I don’t think so. In Galatians 6:12 Paul has nothing good to say about people who ‘to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.’ Yes, in Acts 16 Paul insists on his rights as a Roman citizen. But it seems he’s insisting that Roman law should be followed correctly, not that they’re unfairly picking on Christians. Later when warned he’ll be arrested in Jerusalem he heads, not away from, but straight to Jerusalem.
But the strongest evidence that persecution isn’t something to fear or avoid is that discrimination, mistreatment and injustice against Christians caused the early church to grow. Discrimination is not bad for us. God works through it. It can be a blessing in disguise.