Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Discipleship and the Beastie Boys

There's a common theme in most music that has a teen focus audience (Adults, don't look too smug, your music did the same thing when you were a teen). 70's rock talked about it, The Beastie Boys said you have to fight for your right to do it, Ke$ha is known for nothing else, Owl City botched a "Christian" version of it, and Miley Cyrus attempted to do it (note key word "attempted"). What I speak of is...The Party Song. Each song essentially says that you're young, footloose, and free, and you have the right to party because you are those things. The message is "Forget the world, I have the right to do this, I'm gonna do what I want because I want to."

Whether you have a big red beard and absolutely jam out to these songs (did I just describe myself? Maybe) or you're appalled at both the music quality and lyrics of these songs and wish music would go back to the days of Elvis, most people are really into their rights. We demand the right to be heard, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to arm bears, and the right to express ourselves however we wish. We feel like we have alot of rights and get rather fussy when anyone tries to take those rights from us. 

I wonder Christians have rights? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that "the followers of Jesus for his sake renounce every personal right...If after giving up everything else for His sake they still wanted to cling to their own rights, they would then have ceased to follow Him." (140) When I first read this it kind of melted my face. It's a pretty hefty statement. In context, Bonhoeffer is speaking of revenge and retaliation (the "turning the other cheek, giving up your cloak, and not resisting the evil one" section of The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-42).

Think about this: The church is a countercultural force that does not submit to "the world's standards" but instead has a completely different set of ethics due to the fact that Christ came not to set up an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. Our way of doing this is absolute foolishness to the world according to Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18). Now, if that's the case, why on earth do we get so baffled and confounded when schools take out prayer and the ten commandments and there is talk of taking "under God" out of the pledge. I'm not saying these are good things, but they shouldn't shock us in the least. 

If there is something unfortunate about being an American Christian, it's that it is so darn easy to at least appear to be following Christ. Ask yourself this question: if Christianity were made illegal and we had that "right" taken away from us, what would the size of our churches be? Would they go down? Most certainly. How much would they go down, maybe significantly. If you go to countries where Christianity is either frowned upon or illegal, there are significantly less people...but they are usually very dedicated followers. These people don't find joy in their "right" to follow Christ, for they have none, they find joy in following Christ even at potentially great costs. 

Jesus doesn't want just a piece of you, He wants every aspect and fiber of you. Luke 14:25-35 is one of my favorite...and least favorite passages in the entire Bible because Jesus says that following Him will cost you everything and so you need to sit down and consider whether you're willing to pay up before you make a decision to follow. I don't think we do a very good job of this. Why do I think this? We have aLOT of re-dedications, re-baptisms, and the like. Not that it is unhealthy to be awakened and have your fire renewed by any means, but for some reason there are many people who end up saying "I didn't know what I was doing the first time around" and now want to truly dedicate. 

We all fall into this kind of thinking. It is not JUST the teen/college aged adolescents that feel they have the right to express their youth however they see fit and it is NOT just the more aged adults who argue all day long about constitutional rights, we ALL have these things we feel entitled to. Everyone has a mindset of "you can't tell me what to do", it is most assuredly not adolescent angst. I wonder though, what might it look like if we sold out completely to Christ and put every bit of faith in Him?

Christ says some pretty weird stuff in Matthew 7:6 when He says "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you". He follows this thought up with His whole "Ask and it will be given to you" section. I had no earthly idea what Jesus meant by this until recent when I read Living Jesus by Randy Harris. Although not universally agreed upon, Harris's opinion is that Jesus is referring to the Roman government and saying to His audience that the government is not where His followers are supposed to put their trust (119). Instead, Jesus desires faith to be put in Him to provide what is needed, and ask for it from Him. We do not derive our rights from government, we're asked to put our faith in God alone and put our rights to the side. 

Jesus is our prime example of someone who abandoned His own rights in order to benefit those He loved. Lee Camp illustrated this with a literary punch in the face when he wrote - "On that cross at Golgotha was nailed the One who was unjustly abused, tried, and murdered - and in His dying words He prayed that the Father would forgive those who killed Him. But instead, imagine the result if Jesus had lived in Kentucky, and just before they nailed Him to a cross, He claimed his rights as a citizen and pulled out a .38." (44) Jesus gave no mind to personal property rights, for He owned nothing of significance and had nowhere to lay His head permanently. He gave no mind to self defense rights, for He absorbed the violence of the world into Himself. And He gave no mind to His own will, for He said "not MY will, but YOURS be done."

So what rights are you fighting for? The right to party? The right to property and possessions? The right to retaliate? I challenge you to only accept what Christ gives, for His way is better. The way of discipleship starts with denial of self (Matthew 16:24); we are entitled to nothing because we have died to ourselves and have instead clothed ourselves with Christ.

Matthew 16:24-25 - Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." 

Works Cited:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959. Print.

Camp, Lee C. Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003. Print. 

Harris, Randy, and Greg Taylor. Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount. Abilene, Texas: Leafwood. 2012. Print. 


  1. This is hard. Does God want us to not fight for freedom? As you quoted, we have given up our rights, just as Jesus did by becoming fully human. But what about fighting for the rights of the poor, the slaves, those who are unable to defend themselves like children. It would be hard for me to stand by and not fight for the rights of these who clearly are at the center of God's heart.

    I think you can go to the extreme on either side of this issue, but having a balance in the middle is where we should be. Yet if our rights are taken away, and our freedoms deminished, we can remember what Paul said in Gal 5 talking about the fruit of the Spirit, saying, "Against such things there is no law"

    These are the things that no govt., boss, or any other person can take away from us. No one can tell me not to love or be joyful.


    1. Well, I think the big issue is working towards the freedom of others and the freedom of self. We are to be Christ to others and liberate people from their oppression when possible, but to do so we often must deny our own rights. To stop a fight between a bully and the bullied, you step in between them and absorb the violence.

      We may work towards the freedom of others, the trick is to remember Paul's description of himself when he said that he was a slave of Christ. I hope that makes sense. I think we are Jesus to people the most when we bear their suffering for them in the same way Christ bore ours.

  2. I never understood matthew 7:6 either. I remember asking my father as a very young boy about a kid in school that I was trying to lead to Christ. I related that I was struggling very hard to be nice and play fair and not retaliate, and then my father quotes matthew 7:6. I was relieved that my father said this now thinking that I was also relieved of my job and burden to be Christ-like because this other boy had used up all his chances.

    I always knew this sort of thinking was wrong in some form or fashion, but now that I see that Jesus was referring to "trust", something Jesus considers precious from his followers, in him, not in earthly constructs such as government, it is crystal clear.

    Thank God we worship a God who says forgive your brother 7 times 77 times (Matthew 18:21-22). And thank God he doesn't write down the number either.

    -Derek H

    1. Yeah, I feel like that would be taking it wrong, so I'm glad you've come away with something else.

      Very thoughtful comment Derek. Very much appreciated