Rights vs. the Cross

​There is something going on within the Church. I hate to put a name on it because giving it an identity gives it an ability to grow. It’s not something inherently new, but it is so sly and cunning that it is slipping in and stirring up the already heated pot within the Church and quite frankly, our nation. Within the cry to “be the Church” and to “love on people,” there is a movement of people—Christians, mind you—who are heading this charge. “Exactly, that’s what we, the Church, should be doing,” you say, and I completely agree. My problem is not their message, but rather their methodology.
As the Church, we’ve been charged to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Evangelicals understand the “Great Commission” given by Jesus. It’s our mantra if you will. However, somewhere along the way, we’ve taken the Gospel out to the world, but left out the next verse, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). We share the Gospel “you are saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8), “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9), and “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and that whoever believes in Him will be saved and have eternal life” (John 3:16) well. We often witness people converted from death to life. But what happens when we take a sinner who was bound to chains of addiction, bad choices or self-hate—and we do life with them but look no different than the life they gave up? What about the young student or young adult who has spent their entire lives learning and hearing that certain things weren’t okay, but now they see this new thing as an endorsement to experiment?
Jesus told us to go out, make disciples, and teach them the commands He gave. What was the first thing he told those who would become His first disciples to do? He told them to deny themselves and to daily pick up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The problem today is, as Christ-followers, we say we do this, but not everyone does. We don’t deny ourselves or pick up the cross Jesus bore. We want to be Christ-followers on our terms and pick the size, color, and texture of our crosses. On top of that, we share our cross—not His cross—to those we disciple. It’s dangerous.
​Too many of my contemporaries in the ministry are wooing people with fancy words and terms and “cool” lifestyles. They tell people to “love,” but mixed with that “love” is a gentle nudge to accept and be okay with lifestyle choices. They gather together for Bible study with a Bible in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. They don’t drink the wine because they are thirsty; they drink the wine because they feel they have the right to. They have thousands of followers who are cheering them on saying, “Heck, yeah! Give me that Jesus!” Everything appears to go well until these followers find themselves confronted by Truth preached to them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
You see when we raise our glasses as we gather with our small groups, and we say anyone who wants to marry should be able to marry, and when we live a life that says, “we can have it all AND Jesus,” we are not Christ-followers. We are the world, and we look no different than the world. Even idol-worshippers will call upon the name of Jesus if they think they will gain something from Him.
A church, or ministry, that looks like the world will never be hated by the world, but the Church who is hated by the world will be loved by Jesus (Mark 13:13). Jesus didn’t say our lives would be easy as Christ-followers. Quite the opposite. Jesus’ life was a life of persecution, of moving around, of having nothing, but loving with all His heart because the things of God were on His heart; not the things of this world.
“Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
As Christ-followers, we can have joy and peace in this life. Should God choose to bless us financially, we can be prosperous, but we can also be just as successful with little. We can be suffering servants or leaders placed in positions of security and influence. But what we can’t do or shouldn’t be are Christ-followers who live lives stained by the world. If our fruit looks the same as the fruit of the world, people will become confused as to why they need to give up their sin, lay down their lives and surrender to Jesus. How will they know that it’s Jesus who breaks the chains of addiction if Christians are drinking around those struggling with sobriety? How will they understand submission if we are throwing around words like “moxie” and not understanding our roles within God’s kingdom? How will someone know that our bodies are not meant to be abused or profited from if we, as Christians, don’t stand up against the evil that is pornography and the sexual assault on our eyes (and those of our children’s eyes) by media and Hollywood? If we continue to applaud entertainers for their “voices,” but fail to speak out against their barely-there attire or questionable dance moves, how can we teach people about purity and staying away from adultery (both emotionally and physically)?
Satan is attempting to divide the Church and lead the lost astray. Theological differences have always been an issue, and I am not the first to speak out about how being a Christ-follower is not about religion or denomination. Being a Christ-follower is just that…being a person who follows Christ. According to Scripture, Christ wasn’t a drunk, he didn’t cuss, and He didn’t hang out with sinners to appear cool. His goal was that everyone He had contact with would come to know Jesus as their Savior and bring glory to God. He gave up His rights, and Jesus told us we need to do the same by instructing us to pick up our cross.
Paul told the church in Corinth to not be a stumbling block to others, especially the weak. He said, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” As adults, we can do anything we have the right to do within the boundaries of the law—we can drink, cuss, protest, wear what we want to wear, say what we want to say, or be in a relationship with whoever we choose. However, as Christ-followers, we must decide whether the rights we want to exercise bring glory to God. We also need to consider the motivation of our heart. Do we not want to give up certain things because we enjoy them too much? Are our hearts stubborn and rebellious? If Jesus came today and asked you to immediately give up the things in your life that are stumbling blocks for others, would you?
Pastor Shane Idleman says, "Being selective with what we watch and listen to has nothing to do with legalism; it has everything to do with wisdom." Wisdom is what more of us, including myself, need. Wisdom comes from understanding the heart of God. When push comes to shove, and God pours out wisdom upon those who are following the people orchestrating this thing within the Church, will it look anything like the Truth? What happens to those caught in the in-between?
Without a doubt, I know that I don't want to be responsible for leading people away from the Truth or be a stumbling block for people to find the Truth. I don't believe my contemporaries want to either. Their hearts are in the right place, but they've forgotten to deny themselves and pick up their cross. If our hands are holding our cross, we won't have hands to hold glasses. If we deny ourselves daily, we won't be concerned with what we want, but rather we will be concerned with what God wants. The only "moxie" we need is the courage to share the Gospel with others and to be willing to die to self daily. We gain the power to do this not by our friends, our tribes, or new movements, but by the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells within us. He was, is and always will be the only One we need to follow, and He always leads from Truth. 

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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