But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 45-48 NASB
We began our study of this portion of Scripture with the unfaithful servant . Yesterday, we looked at being salt and light. If you missed one of them, I hope you'll follow the link (it opens in a new tab) and get caught up.
Today, I am, in a way, writing about the slave who knew his master's will but did not do it. That slave will be in big trouble and will regret his decision.
Most of my employees over the years have understood what I expected and have worked hard to do it. I've had very few who failed to do their work, but there have been one or two. I didn't beat them, but I did have a process to fire them if, after a conference, they didn't do their duty.
As an employee, we know that our employer expects certain things of us. Those duties are usually described in our job description. Most of the time, we expect certain things of our employer (like being paid in a timely manner and in the amount agreed upon, health insurance, benefits). Those benefits are described in a contract. That contract is a legally binding agreement between employer and employee.
As a U.S. citizen, we have a similar document that describes what we can expect. It's called a constitution. The dictionary defines the constitution as "the system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, corporation, or the like is governed." In the United States, our constitution was drafted by the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and went into law on March 4, 1789. There's a plethora of laws to accompany it, but the constitution gives us certain rights that we can count on.
I've just read our Constitution again, and I recommend you do, too. Here's the link to a PDF of the Constitution. It's not my first time to read this document. As an elected official, I've read it many times. It's one of the documents under which I work. There's a few statements in there that always surprise me, though.
~"Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy;" (italics are mine)
~ The Oath of Office for President does not contain the term "so help me God". The oath reads: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
~ "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (This means our elected officials can follow any religious faith they desire, or none if they want. That right is guaranteed them by the Constitution.)
The only mention of "God" in the Constitution and its amendments is used in the term "the year of our Lord".
The first amendment guarantees us the freedom of religion, speech, and press. Here's what it says:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;"
This means that the exercise of the Christian faith cannot be prohibited, but neither can the exercise of Islam, Hindu, or any other religion. All faiths are equally protected. There is not a protection for one faith to kill people of a different faith (as in Isis beheadings) but neither is there a protection for people of one faith to persecute people of another faith. (bomb mosques, etc). All faiths are welcome to get along side by side. (I am not saying all religions are truth. That's an issue for a different document.)
I realize that's quite a bit of detail about a document that is more than 200 years old, but it is the document under which we, in this country, live and have our rights. It's important to know what our rights are, but it is equally important to know what our rights are not.
It was in the Declaration of Independence that our forefathers mentioned their faith, but that is not law. It does give us a picture of their ideology, but again, it's not law.
As Christians, we, too, have fundamental principles that govern how we act. It is my opinion that Jesus summed those up in these words:
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22: 37-39 NASB
According to Jesus, all the laws of God depend on these words.
The basis of our faith, then, is love. Love of God. Love of our fellow man.
Why does all this matter? Why have I written all this legalese today?
As Americans, we are bound by the law of the land and it's important to know the laws under which we function. It's equally important to know what freedoms our Constitution guarantees and what it does not.
As disciples of Christ, we are also bound by the law of Christ, and that law begins and ends with love.
Space does not permit a study of all the promises or rights of divine citizenry that God has given us. The Bible is filled with promises, but those are for another day.
This is a complex issue that cannot be completed addressed in a single blog post. I've addressed only a few key points.
For today, let's evaluate our citizenship. As citizens of this country, we have rights and responsibilities. We have the right to insist that the law be followed and that our rights be protected. It's not just important that we know our rights so that we know what rights should be ensured, it's our responsibility.
The problem we sometimes have is that we get our rights as citizens of the US confused with our rights as citizens of the Kingdom of God. The two are not synonymous.
As believers, we have a citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It conveys certain rights and responsibilities. Our job, or responsibility, in this Kingdom is love. When we love God and love our fellow man, we should act in ways that honor our Lord and King.
Love does not preclude insisting that laws be followed. It does require that we do our insisting in ways that please God. May the fruit of the Spirit be evident, even when we encounter controversy and disagreement.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NASB
Our Father, help us to know truth, know our rights and obligations as citizens, and act in ways that bring glory and honor to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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