Scenario: Girl gets married.
Girl’s church is excited and throws her a big shower.
In only a few months, girl discovers her new husband is an abuser.
Girl manages to escape and seeks godly counsel. Godly counsel advises girl to return home to her family that lives far away, ensuring safety from her abusive husband.
Girl’s church sends her a harsh letter not long after, demanding she apologize for leaving. After all, they had given her a beautiful shower and supported her through some tough years. How could she just up and leave without a word?
Girl’s heart was broken, not once but twice.
There’s no doubt our culture is suffering from entitlement mentality. The selfie generation and Burger King psychosis (it’s all about getting it your way) has reached levels that make Veruca Salt nauseous. But could it be that the “me-me-me” mindset has stained the thoughts and hearts of believers?
In Luke 9:23, Jesus marked out a Christian’s life pretty clearly. “And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].’ “ AMP
Let’s contrast this to the definition of ‘entitlement’ according to Merriam Webster:
“Belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”
Following Christ versus entitlement. Polar opposite ideas, yet the two are stealthily being woven together in a tattered kind of warped tapestry.
When asked what entitlement looks like within Christian culture, a social media group responded with a variety of answers.
• “When I was younger, I always thought if I worked hard enough for the Lord then he’d bless me with what I wanted! That’s not how it works. The Lord blesses us with what we need! Not what we want.”
• “Obedience appears to be obsolete.”
• “Christians who put their liberty to do something over their testimony before others and being a stumbling block to the weak.”
• “It used to be that when families were struggling in a church, their fellow church members pitched in to help with food, paying bills, keeping kids, etc. Now it seems more rely on government programs, leaving the fellow church members to simply focus on themselves. It makes churches weaker, not stronger, when we don’t support one another…spiritually and physically.”
• “Some people don’t want to come preach, direct music, or serve unless they are paid and/or paid to their satisfaction.”
• “That somehow God will bless you even though you’re not living a godly, Holy Spirit-led life.”
• “When my husband was pastoring, we heard countless times, ‘But they give a lot of money…’. So, apparently giving to the church gives you a louder voice than others.”
• “We have bought into the right to be entertained, so much that it has permeated worship services. We have bought into the notions that we are entitled to “toys” and nice things beyond what is necessary, even what is comfortable. Many stay so busy with these things, not necessarily bad within themselves, that they have forgotten how to ‘be still’ to know God.”
• “I think churches have become filled with a consumer mentality. ‘What can the church do for me?’ when the question really should be, ‘How can I serve? What can I do for others?’”
All valid points and worthy of reflection. I think the issue might go even deeper.
Along with the points mentioned above, I keep returning to the opening scenario. It’s not new. It’s happened to countless individuals over and over again. Hurting people who have sought solace in the arms of God’s people only to be pushed farther down.
Cold theology is never a substitute for love.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:37-40
Sometimes I wonder if the greatest place of ministry in a church is in the restroom on Sunday mornings during worship.
While the congregation is singing or listening to the pastor preach, this is where you’ll find those battling anxiety, attempting to take deep breaths, desperate just to keep it together. It’s the same place a wife is crying because her marriage is failing, or where a father is hiding because he has no idea how to connect to his teenage son.
Why do they hide their pain? Because sometimes they aren’t given safe spaces to share it.
When a friend of mine was in the middle of some severe anxiety issues, a church member criticized her for pulling away from the church body and excluding people in her age group. This only made the problem worse and made my friend feel as if the entire church body was judging her.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve become entitled. We think we have the right to tell people how to work out their issues, make them conform to our expectations, and, worse yet, push them through a healing time-table that has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. As broken people ourselves, we do not have that right.
We’ve got to learn to be okay with the messy being messy. With taking them exactly as they are and not trying to change them in order to make ourselves feel better. And that’s usually what the problem is. When we don’t know what to do with someone in the middle of pain, we try to shape them into the image of what fits our own comfortable mold. Because it’s all about us. Our comfort. Us. Me. My. My way.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten this whole following Jesus thing is not about us…and it never was.
For all of our talk about grace, it might be that we really don’t get it. Oh, we love receiving it, but have trouble showing it. Even scarier, we are resentful of people who can accept it for what it is. Unmerited favor. Lavish blessings in the middle of messiness.
Maybe we’ll have less time to worry about what we’re entitled to when we remember the grace that’s been given freely to us all. And if we really want to be like Jesus, we have to lay it all down…just like He did.