As an American, I have a deep sense of the basic “unalienable rights” with which I am endowed by my Creator. Our Declaration of Independence states that this knowledge is “self-evident.” And tells us that these rights include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But what does the Bible say on this subject? What are our “rights” as Christians? First, it is important to note that God cares deeply about justice. He himself is always just and he commands us to deal justly. Isaiah 61:8 says “For I the Lord love justice.” Proverbs 21:3 tells us “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” And Micah 6:8 instructs us “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Justice is defined in Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.” Of course, this definition presumes a “law” based on God’s moral law as defined by Scripture. A rejection of that moral law by default leads to injustice. And that is where we are as a nation. God’s law says “you shall not commit murder” yet we are living under a government that says it’s your “right” to commit murder – to murder a baby in the womb. And we are clearly called to speak out against such injustice. Isaiah 1:17 commands us “Learn to do good; seek justice, and correct oppression.” This is the spirit in which Dr. Martin Luther King acted when he stood up against racial oppression. And it is the same spirit in which his niece Dr. Alveda King operates in her fight against abortion. She is standing up for the most basic right – the right to life. We are clearly called to speak out for the rights of the defenseless, the weak, the poor, and the oppressed. But what of our own rights? I propose, much to my chagrin, that we must tread lightly in this area. There is something in my flesh that wants to fight. But the Holy Spirit within me pulls on the reigns and says “not so fast.”
Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” - Matthew 5:38-39 And in Luke 14:33 he says “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” A dear friend of mine who has gone on to glory, Jim Davis, used to say “God has called us to the doormat ministry, brother.” It used to get under my skin when he’d say that. “Surely God doesn’t want people to just wipe their feet on me” I’d think. But as the years have passed, I have realized he was absolutely right. Jesus suffered and died at the hands of not one, but two unjust systems. The apostles suffered and died, being persecuted for righteousness sake. And in so doing, they were pronouncing justice by themselves being the victims of injustice. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything... a time to be silent and a time to speak… a time for war and a time for peace… a time to tear down and a time to build. We need to know our timing. And that timing is dictated by the Holy Spirit for those who have been redeemed. We should be meek, but never timid. We should be brave, but never self-seeking. Should we fight for our rights? I humbly submit to you the answer is yes and no. Our rights as children of God are completely in His hands - for to be a Christian means surrendering everything, including our rights, to Him. There are times where he will call upon us to lay down those rights. And there are times when He will require that we take a stand. Either way, it will cost us. And either way, it will be worth it.
Finally, I will leave you with this perspective: Matthew 6:33 instructs us “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Let us, as Christians, keep this cause always before us. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah preaching “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And Jesus' first message was “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Our Lord taught us to pray “Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This kingdom we live in… the United States of America… is not God’s kingdom. It is an earthly kingdom. And like all earthly kingdoms, it will pass away. But we are of another kingdom and and our mission is to proclaim that kingdom. Our hope and our confidence is in that kingdom and that King. So, be of good cheer. The Kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:17
And so we pray… and I encourage you to read this aloud with me… “Jesus, Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
May it be so in Jesus’ mighty name!