Here in the United States, we seem to thrive on individual rights. Our country was founded proclaiming that its citizens have the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. We’ve added so many more. The right to bear arms. The right to assemble peaceably. The right to vote — equal representation. The right to own property. The right to defend that property. The right to choose — to make our own decisions. Even the right to remain silent — unfortunately, one that isn’t used often enough. 😉
There is one thing that fascinates me about our American “rights”. Even though most would claim that these are “God-given” rights, the Bible often does not back up that claim. I think of those original “Creator-endowed, unalienable rights” — “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. If these are truly rights given to us by God, then I think the predominance of the godly Bible characters somehow missed their rights. Prophet after prophet, along with the majority of the apostles and early Christians, did not live a life centered around their “right” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Many of them lost their life for the sake of their faith. Others were imprisoned and enslaved because of their belief in God. It was not their own pleasure that drove them to share the message of God with individuals, cities, and nations. No, it often brought misery, hardship, and turmoil into their life — quite the contrast to the “happiness” our American culture says we have a right to.
That is not to say that as Christians we have no rights — we do. We have a right that far surpasses any of our “guaranteed” American rights, or rights any other nation or person may give you. John writes about this as he communicates to us the Christmas message — the message of God coming to earth and taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus. John writes this message of our “right” in John 1:9-13:
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
The right to become children of God! Wow! This is the right that caused the Apostles and early Christians to fearlessly proclaim the gospel as they should. God says that to those who receive Jesus, who believe in His name, they have a right — not a chance, not a possibility, not a what-if or maybe, but a right to become a child of God. We know all about rights in this country and we believe that no one can take our rights away from us. We demand our rights because they belong to us.
When I dwell on God’s view of me, it is humbling and invigorating that He sees me as His child. He has set up the true “Creator-endowed, unalienable rights”, and this is it. Not simply a right to life, freedom, and happiness; a right to relationship! I have a right to call God my Father. John says that this is a right I have by birth — not a natural birth, but a supernatural birth. It is the birth Jesus talks about in the third chapter of John when He tells Nicodemus, “You must be born again”. It is this acceptance and belief in Jesus that gives me the greatest right ever. I claim this right. I have this right — a right purchased by the blood of Jesus through which God says I am His child.
May you and I value the right we have to become children of God. May we honor that relationship and live up to the responsibility that comes with being a part of the family — God’s family.