When I was growing up, my parents would regularly remind me that much of what I liked to do and have in life was not a right but a privilege. This meant that I should not expect to be able to watch TV whenever I want, rather it was something that was allowed at times when it did not conflict with my other responsibilities.
Being a Christian is full of responsibilities. One should not expect unlimited access to the church building or to the pastor just because one is a member of the congregation or even because one gives a large sum of money to the local church.
Munger Place UMC in Dallas says, “membership is not about what you get, but what you give. It is not about privileges, but about responsibilities” (quoted in “Kitchen Groups–Not About Cooking,” by Steven Manskar, Romans 12, No. 118).
Being a Christian means being a disciple, living selflessly as led by Christ, loving God and neighbor, studying Scripture, and actively listening to how the Spirit calls today. A Christian cannot be concerned with one’s own entitlement.
This does not mean that a Christian ignores one’s own needs, whereas there is a difference between the needs of all persons and a belief that one is entitled to something that others do not enjoy. The selfless disciple is focused on loving God and neighbor, putting the needs of others first.
I started attending Hillcrest UMC a few years ago because I saw the passion whereby so many people gave of their time and resources to care for others in need, regardless of whether they knew those persons. I saw a level of commitment that I desired to have in my own life.
I hope that others will join me this Lent to gather in conversation about how we can live a life of discipleship, disciplining ourselves to live out the responsibilities of Christ-like love. It is good to be a member of the church, but now we need to challenge ourselves to set aside what we thought were our own personal rights and privileges and focus instead on the responsibility to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit.
What responsibilities of a disciple will you focus on this Lent?