Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Rights: Whose Rights?

Written by: on April 20, 2021

Every church needs an EGR family. A family where extra grace is required. When I was a young unpaid pastor, I had one in my church. Gene and Rita were odd; they were kind and gentle, but awkward. They had custody of their grandchild who were young terrors in the church, constantly in trouble, bullying other children, breaking things and carefree of the ramifications of their actions. Gene wore bid overalls, was quiet and never spoke unless spoken to. Even then, he seldom responded with more than a few words. Rita was kind but sharp tongued when it came to family and her opinions of people. Neither one made friends easily and were often shunned in the church. Despite all of their challenges they were at church every Sunday.

One Sunday after preaching on faithfulness and serving others in the name of Christ, Gene stopped to talk to me and stepped out of his norm.  He asked “I can’t find anyone who will roof my garage. I wonder if you know someone who could do it.” I gave a general response, “I will ask around.” I admit, I really wasn’t concerned about looking for someone to help him, but, during the next few weeks the Holy Spirit began to work on my heart. I knew I was being asked to roof the garage myself. Each week Gene would ask, and each week I would give the same response. I didn’t want to get involved. I didn’t want to take vacation, and didn’t want to roof Gene’s garage. Over a period of a month God won. I offered to roof Gene’s garage.

Honestly God met me in a way I could never have expected. The day I showed up – and almost every day I was there – their dog bit me. It was never a consideration to them to lock him up. The first day they offered to feed me lunch and I walked into a house covered in filth. I washed my hands in a disgusting bathroom and ate lunch on a dirty plate. That night I complained to God and reminded Him on how holy I was being. The only response I heard was “clean the bathroom and wash the dishes.” The next day when invited in for lunch I cleaned the bathroom and washed the dishes. Each day Gene got a little more talkative. The final day he crawled up on the roof and shared his story. “Greg I wasn’t always slow and odd,” he stated. “I worked for the railroad, and one day a spike was struck and accidentally hit me in the head. I have been on disability ever since.” I sat quiet, with tears in my eyes.  I knew this was the reason God asked me to roof the garage. Gene shared how he came to know Christ, how his family struggled and finally how much he appreciated me for accepting him for who he was. By the end of my visit I was crying. I asked his forgiveness for being judgmental in the past. We prayed together. That day God met me face to face through an awkward old man who loved Jesus but never had the opportunity to share his story. Both Gene and Rita have long since passed but the memories and influence of his friendship still reside in my heart

Walker in his book The Undefended Leader, states “Genuine spirituality of undefended, of generosity, which enjoys the resources we have but freely gives them away. It lays down our ‘territorial’ claims to the ownership of the land, our money, our rights or even our lives,”[1] In America we exert great energy and time claiming and defending our rights as individuals. We seek influence to make our convictions known to others. Yet Jesus, when confronted by Pilate, didn’t respond in defense. He laid his rights aside to the point that he watched a murderer go free in his place. He raised no protest. I am often reminded that when serving Christ the only rights I have are those Jesus gives me. Those rights are those of a servant, not a king; of a priest, not a president. Walker shows us that the undefended life is one of creativity and fulfillment. It is also full of difficulty, opposition and being misunderstood. It requires us to relinquish control of our influence and our possessions. We are asked to hold our assets with open hands, to see life as something entrusted to us for the benefit of others. We are asked to yield our rights for the sake of others.[2] These are challenging ambitions. In a world torn apart by self-centered leaders, maybe it’s time to relinquish control and become undefended.

[1] Simon Walker, The Undefended Leader, (Carlisle, UK: Piquant Edition Ltd., 2010), 446.

[2] Simon Walker, The Undefended Leader, 456.

About the Author

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, husband, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

10 responses to “Rights: Whose Rights?”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    Thanks for this anecdote, Greg. It’s convicting to think of our ability to judge based on our assumptions rather than a person’s story. I think it also shows the power that story and simply pausing to listen can have. I think one of our hesitations in doing so is that when we listen to someone’s story, we’re stepping into it – muck and all. It’s messy and as long as we don’t know them for who they are, we can vindicate our judgment.

    • Greg Reich says:

      As a coach I am a believer in messy. We shun messiness in my view because we are insecure in our beliefs and we are afraid that we may be wrong. But, when people sit down and are wiling to listen to other peoples story something magical happens.

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    I love this story, Greg. Thank you for sharing. Oh how we prefer to keep challenging people at arm’s length, to make assumptions, and not be involved. Listening to God’s promptings is key. Discerning God’s voice from our own is even more important. I wonder if that isn’t part of the problem in our churches, in our communities, where few are able to actually discern God’s voice and direction rather than their own ego driven agendas?

    • Greg Reich says:

      It is amazing how we come up with preconceived definitions of what Christ in others is suppose to look like Often, in our minds they should look like us, as if we are the model for christianity. Despite our frailties as humans it seems God still desires to use us to be His arms and feet.

  3. John McLarty says:

    It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I’m always surprised by the way God is revealed in the places I don’t really want to go and in the people I don’t really want to be around! Thanks for this reflection.

  4. Shawn Cramer says:

    In preparation for next week’s post, I watched a video on Jordan Peterson on Postmodernity. He says part of the problem is the insistence of rights that he places on victimhood. What is missing is a call for responsibility. How would you respond to that?

    • Greg Reich says:

      Shawn to expand a little on my last comment. Their is a lot of things a leader can shed but responsibility is not one of them. There are a lot of people willing to stand up and assert their rights but few want to take responsibility. True leadership understands that with every right comes responsibility.

  5. Greg Reich says:

    I am big on people taking personal responsibility as well as, companies and businesses taking and owning their stuff, especially Christian led companies. When people and businesses don’t take responsibility it is easy to re-victimize the victim. It always disturbs me when accusations are made against a leader. In every case they need to be taken seriously. The accuser needs to be heard. If that accusations are found to be false then deal with the false accusation. The problem I see it when leaders are accused often times the accusations are swept under the rug and the accuser is discredited to protect the accuser. If the accusations are true and the accuser is a victim of the leaders indiscretions by sweeping the accusations under the rug we are re-victimizing the victim.
    It is not easy owning ones crap and not easy taking responsibility for it but it is part of the road to maturity and healthy leadership.

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    A story of commission. Real.

    The sacrifice was there, and with that a little opening. The release of something opens us open to the reception of another thing. Perhaps, often the opposite thing?

    If I let go of love in a moment, create space by the release of that, perhaps it’s in a moment that the opposite thing is looking for a weak spot, a vulnerable ‘made free’ place to exploit?

  7. Greg Reich says:

    The vigilant pursuit of being like Christ can not help but disarm us. It seems to force us to look deeper inside and release things that hinder our pursuit. There is a sense of understanding the we need to give up in order to go up.

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