When John the Baptist was conceived, his father, Zechariah, met an angel. The angel told him John would be a forerunner to Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And John’s purpose in turning people back to God was more important than his rights and freedoms…
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
What was clear was that John was special, and there were special requirements relating to his role. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born,” (Luke 1:14).
Why would there be such restrictions on John’s freedoms? No beer while he watches the game with his friends. No wine with Mrs. Baptist over a candle-lit dinner? No booze. That was John’s restriction. And we don’t like restrictions, do we?
For Jesus to become greater and for me to become less, I must hold my rights loosely. We are very big on rights and freedoms today. Even more so if you live in the USA (I’m Canadian, so we are a few notches down from our southern neighbours). Don’t mess with our rights.
In order for John to play the role God needed him to play, God had a requirement for John that restricted his freedom. John never complains to our knowledge. This is not a stumbling block to John’s faith or mission. John knows why he is here and he is set on his purpose to make Jesus known.
Which brings me back to me…
Are we willing to focus less on our rights to focus more on God’s purpose?
John’s restriction was alcohol. If reaching my neighbour for Jesus required me to abstain from alcohol would I still reach my neighbour? Maybe he is a recovering alcoholic who has a hard time around those who drink. Maybe she is leaving a relationship in which she was abused by a heavy drinker. Am I willing to give up my rights in those situations?
The mission of God to love our neighbours with the love of God puts two people ahead of my rights. My God and my neighbour are more important than my freedom.
John got it. He got it from the womb. Some of us are still learning it.
Less rights and freedom. Greater Jesus. In fact, less rights leads to more freedom…
Think of it this way, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Not on my terms. On his. And I’m bringing my neighbour, not my rights.