The concept of rights is extremely prevalent in our American culture. To an extent our whole society is founded on the concept of rights. It is enshrined in phrases like “inalienable rights” which is found in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution contains the Bill of Rights. We are conditioned to think of our rights. The problem with rights is that they demand. If something is a right then, by definition it (whatever it happens to be, from the right of assembly to women’s rights) belongs to us. We get quarrelsome when someone does not recognize that something is ours. In other words, when we feel that someone has violated one of our rights, it creates an adversarial relationship. It causes separation.
How do we resolve our quarrels and disputes? Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common for people to go to court. According to one statistic I read, there is now one lawyer for every 265 people in this country. No wonder our courts are swamped!
Going to court may confirm our so-called rights. It may get us what we think is ours. But going to court rarely heals relationships. In fact, it causes the separation to increase. What does this say about our motives? Is self-gratification more important than peace? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said this, “…I think we are too ready today to seek vindication or vengeance through adversary proceedings rather than peace through mediation…” (as quoted in The Peacemaker, A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Ken Sande, Baker Book House, 1991, p. 38)
Now think, for a moment, about the difference between how God acts and the way our society does. In contrast to the rights which we claim for ourselves God, as our Creator, has an absolute right to us, our service and our lives. By choosing to disobey Him, we have deliberately violated not some arbitrary, manufactured right which we’ve granted ourselves, but something which really does belong to God.
Our actions put us in an adversarial relationship to God. They have caused separation. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV)
By the way, the Law is on God’s side. If He chose to take us to court, we would lose. The court would pass sentence on us. Yet, that is not what God wants. He does not seek vengeance. Instead, He wants peace. He wants to heal the broken relationship. And so, instead of suing in court, God appointed a Mediator to reconcile the two estranged parties and make a new agreement between them. Not only did He appoint a mediator, He, Himself paid the damages for the wrong we did.
Hebrews 9:11-15 expresses it this way, “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:11-15 NIV)
It is only those who refuse the mediator; those who refuse God’s offer to pay the damages; those who won’t enter into a new agreement with Him, who have to face the court. Only those who insist on having their own way will have sentence passed on them.
Each week we eat a piece of bread and drink some juice to remind us of the Mediator. They remind us of the damages He paid so we can have peace with God. Have we accepted the Mediator? Have we signed on to the peace agreement He brokered?