We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
One of the problems with “we, the people” is that our country began with the assertion that we have been given, by God, these “inalienable” rights. It’s interesting, then, that God allowed His people to spend so much time as slaves. Or, perhaps it’s just us Americans who have these rights?
I ask this rhetorically, of course, not to mention sarcastically. In America, we’re all about rights – we yell and scream over them, file lawsuits about them, and create news stories about them. We’re more than just the land of opportunity; we’re the land of rights. Everybody has rights – more rights than we know what to do with. We’re up to our necks in rights. We’ve got more rights than the Colonel has chicken. I have rights that I’ve never even used.
Do we really have these inalienable, God-given rights? Just where in the Bible might we find them? It has always been my impression from reading through the Bible, especially the New Testament, that we have been given gifts, not rights, except for this: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12). This, in turn, does give us certain rights as “fellow heirs.” However, these rights are not necessarily what is conjured up by the D of I. Physical liberty is not guaranteed (as evidence by Paul and other apostles), eternal life is ours, but again, the apostles’ example is enough to show that does not necessarily apply to physical life. And “pursuit of happiness?” We have joy, of course.
We can debate to death what is ours through Christ- some would even go so far as to say wealth and perfect health (though they are dead wrong). My proposition is this: it doesn’t matter.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
– Paul, Letter to the Philippians
The only heir who wasn’t adopted had all the rights of the one who created everything; that includes the right to crush creation on a whim and start over. He had the right to take whatever he wanted, do whatever he wanted, live like a – well – a God. The point is that he didn’t; he gave up all of these rights in order to serve his creation. He gave up position, safety, comfort, a life without pain, a life without hassles, a life without physical death, and – think of it – a life without the confines of a human body.
Jesus, Paul states, is to be our example. To live a life without rights, constantly putting yourself in a position of weakness and humility, serving others. Our expectation is not that we will be great in this life, or rich, or even comfortable. We are not promised this – in fact, we are sometimes promised quite the opposite.
Wow… that kind of takes all the fun out of being an American, doesn’t it?