Entitlement

Last week was a week of intense reflection and journaling.  The dominant theme was the issue of entitlement.  This concept began to be a regular topic of meditation for me a few months ago.  As always, I wondered why this word, which is not part of my normal vocabulary, had become a refrain in my thinking.

My first assumption was that God was trying to get my attention about this issue, so I spent some time listening and reflecting with God about it. As I pondered the concept, I began to see theological implications which captured my heart.    As it turned out, it became something of a central piece in my theological understanding of what a truly surrendered life looks like.  And I quickly realized  God was inviting me to examine my own motivations behind my actions on a daily basis.

The concept of entitlement is rooted in the issue of my will.  When I assert my own will in a given situation, I am acting out of a sense of entitlement, because I believe I am entitled to my way of doing something, or I have a right to something.

As I pondered the meaning of the word, I quickly realized that, as a Christian, as one who has been baptized, I no longer have any rights.  In baptism, I died to all of my rights, in exchange for God's sovereign right over all of my life. In baptism, I surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  He is now Lord; I am not. Rather, as the Apostle Paul states again and again in the introductions to his letters, I am a servant, or a slave, of Jesus Christ:  I have been bought; I am owned.  I no longer belong to myself.

This has profound implications in daily life.  How many times a day, in how many different ways, do I assert my own will...even demand my own way?  I shudder to think of the answer to that question.  However, the more important issue is this: when I assert my own will over the will of God for me, I am placing myself above God, as God.  Therefore, asserting my own will is sin against God. 

This realization led to a time of confession and repentance.  When this truth comes into focus for us, the sins of pride and arrogance also become clear.  It is prideful and arrogant of me to assert my own will over the will of God for me.  When I think of all that God has done for me, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, on my behalf, the only acceptable response is one of humility.  When I realize the depth of the gift of grace he extends to me every minute of every day, the only acceptable response is gratitude.  And in that place of humility and gratitude, there is no room for entitlement.

Another tangential concept related to entitlement is the issue of my will.  I have often wondered why God does not assert his "godness" in my life and change those things in me that seem to be such an affront to his holiness.  The answer is always because he respects my will at all times.  I have learned in this journey with God that he is very much a gentleman, and he will never use power to coerce me to change, to become something other than I am today.  Rather, he invites me into a relational process by which I come to know over time who he truly is, to know the truth about who I really am (the good and the bad), and he invites me to pray for a change of heart.  God is most concerned with the status of our heart.  If our hearts are in a surrendered attitude toward him, then he will enter in and do the transformative work that he longs to do in us and for us.  But he will never override our will to assert his own will.  Rather, he will love us into a place of surrender.

This, by the way, is the process of sanctification.  God knows what he desires to change in us, how he longs to transform us into the likeness of his Son, Jesus.  And in his infinite love, his grace is sufficient for us as he takes his time, wooing our hearts into a place of grateful surrender, a place where we willingly lay down our rights in exchange for his plans for us.