The opening of the Declaration of Independence states, “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.” This nation was built and governed by these rights. What if someone told you that these rights may not pertain to you regardless of your race, ethnicity, or economic status? Surely, there would be a great deal of controversy as to exactly what rights were applicable. Our ancestors fought and died to secure certain rights so that we could truly experience equal opportunities. What do you think would happen if citizens of this country willingly consented to relinquish certain rights that are considered relevant to our daily lives?
We have grown accustomed to having certain rights just because we feel we deserve them. There appears to be generations who possess a strong sense of entitlement, to whatever they want, when they want it and how they want it. Inherently, nothing is wrong with desiring certain opportunities for ourselves and our children. Many parents struggled so their offspring would have a better life than they experienced. However, in some cases, children may not have learned the importance of working for what they receive, or experiencing consequences for inappropriate behavior. What does it say about our culture when children demand their rights as descendants, without honoring the parents who provide them with a good life and wonderful gifts?
We are often very demanding. Prayers sometime turn into grocery lists of what we want, neglecting to give honor, thanks and praise to the Giver for what we have and who He is. Even more than neglecting to acknowledge God as our Lord and Savior, we sometimes may have difficulty recognizing in the scheme of things, how strongly and loudly we demand our rights. “I have to right to my opinion! I have the right to stand up for myself! I have the right to put myself first! I have the right to have nice things! I have the right to raise my children however I think is best! I have the right to have fun! I have the right to do what I want to do! I have a right to be happy! I have the right to choose who I want to serve! I have the right to reject the traditional Christian faith!” What price are we willing to pay to secure these rights?
Where do our personal rights stop and our Christian responsibilities begin? What is the difference in the expectations of citizens of the kingdom of God and citizens of this world? I had a conversation with someone regarding incidents of insulting and unkind treatment I was receiving from a mutual acquaintance. I felt I had the right to give this person, “A piece of my mind.” However, the very day that I was convinced I needed to address the issue; I had an unexpected encounter with the person I considered for months to display the epitome of obnoxious and repugnant behavior. Early during the day, while in close proximity of this individual and being completely fed up with the comments, I turned to voice my opinion, and not one word came out of my mouth. Later, on the same day, I entered the area where this person was sitting and I was greeted by this totally, unexpected comment, “You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. No matter what I say to you, you never get mad.” (Little did this person know, thirty minutes earlier I was very close to losing it). We had a chance to talk and I shared some truths concerning my Christian faith. I thank God that I didn’t exercise what I viewed as “my right” to communicate exactly how I felt. Even today when I think about the situation, I praise God for not allowing me to convey the anger I felt. I am grateful that I did not completely obviate the opportunity to share a testimony regarding His love.
For what cause will we give up our rights that we claim by birth? Many cherish the privileges that have been acquired through professional positions, standing in the community, economic, political and social status. How carefully do we cuddle, protect and nurture the rights these positions give, that grant personal privilege, recognition, places of honor and financial gain? How deeply ingrained is the false sense of security in our “human rights” that we will fight to the end to defend these rights, instead of acknowledging that our rights in Christ supersede any other rights we may possess. Are we willing to fight, protest, march, go to prison and die to proclaim the name of Jesus?
As Christians we are have the right to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. If someone slaps us on one cheek, we have the right turn to them the other cheek. If someone takes our coat, we are not to withhold our shirt from them. We have the right to give to everyone who asks us, and if anyone takes what belongs to us, we are not to demand it back. We have the right to do to others as we would have them do to us. If we love those who love us, what credit is that to us? Even sinners love those who love them. And if we do good to those who are good to us, what credit is that to us? Even sinners do that. And if we lend to those from whom we expect repayment, what credit is that to us? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But we should love our enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then our reward will be great, and we will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. We have the right to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful, (Luke 6:27-36 NIV).
Who can say? “I have the right to give up first place for last place, give up greatness for servanthood and to be rejected to become chief.” Children of God can say, “I have the right to claim my position as member of the chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation a person belonging to God, that I may declare the praises of him who called me out of the darkness into his marvelous light, (1 Peter 2:9).
I have the right, “To do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God,” Micah 6:8 (NIV).
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