December 30, 2012

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12

It is my right!  It is my right to <fill in the blank>.  This is a refrain we hear in most protests and many political speeches.  It is my right to have affordable healthcare.  It is my right to have a living wage. It is my right to have housing. It is my right to have a gun. It is my right to have mail service. It is my right to have cell phone service. It is my right to have a high-speed internet connection.

human rights

human rights (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

At times, it seems like very political or social issue is about protecting someone’s rights as a human being. I listen to politicians and marvel at how they can spin a web of justification emanating from a righteous crusade to protect the fundamental human rights of just about anything. Human rights are so very important.  It is critical for every person to understand what their rights as a human being are.  It is equally important to understand the difference between human rights and legal rights. I believe that a human right is a right inherent in all human beings. Human rights are those rights that every human being has that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else.  They are inalienable rights and many laws exist to protect those inalienable rights. Legal rights are those rights given to a citizen and that can be transferred with the consent of the person possessing the right.  That is an alienable right.The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is helpful in sorting out this confusing issue:

United States Declaration of Independence

United States Declaration of Independence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“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.”  (United States Declaration of Independence)The formation of the United States of America was premised upon the obligation of the government to secure these rights: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” (United States Declaration of Independence)

This is why politicians, at least in the US, tend to cast issues as human rights issues; it is why protestors appeal to the violation of their inalienable rights.  It is the highest appeal that can be made to a government; to secure an inalienable right. A citizen can demand of their government to secure their naturally occurring rights – that is the purpose of government.

Now, I realize that there is great debate about what rights are inherent to a person and what rights are granted or created by the government.  While I am interested in that debate, I am more interested in our inherent rights with the Creator of the Universe.  What are my inalienable rights as a being created in the image of God?  Are there appeals that I can make to God Almighty based on my inherent rights that obligate him to secure those rights for me?

Do I have a right to God’s presence?

Many religions surmise that we have an inherent right to God’s presence.  If you just follow a set of guidelines, then God is obligated to accept you.  If you just do more good things than bad things, based on your own definition, then God is obligated to accept you.  Once you have lived a perfect enough life, then God will accept you.

The Gospel of John tells us that we have a very specific right.  It is the right to become a child of God.  Is that an inalienable right or an alienable right?  We are told that this right is given to us.  Therefore, it is an alienable right.  It is a right that is not inherent to us. We have no inherent right that will allow us to demand God to secure our access to his presence.  It is a gift that is granted.

Our right to become a child of God is a gift from Christ.  It is a gift granted to those who receive Christ; who have believed in His name.  It is only after we receive Christ and believe in His name that we receive the most valuable right that any created being can receive.

We all love our rights.  We will argue, fight and even die for our rights.  All of the inherent rights that we may have in this world pale in comparison to a right that is given to us – a right to be born again of God.  A right to become a child of the Most High; and if a child, then an heir – heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.

How does life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this world compare to that?

I am not diminishing how important it is to protect human rights. However, we must remember that our inherent earthly rights will always be inferior to our alienable heavenly right.  That reality should influence all of our work on this earth.  Our work is about the gospel.  All of our work, even protecting human rights, achieves its highest calling when it directs the lost to the greatest alienable right a person can receive – the right to become children of God.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for all of those facing oppression this day.  I particularly pray for those who are oppressed for your name sake.  I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted, beaten, and abused.  Father, be with them; comfort them, give them a peace and an assurance that goes beyond all understanding, keep them from despair.   Lord, give them strength to endure to the end that your name be lifted up through their suffering.  Lord, help them cling to their right that matters more than any other – that they are your children.  Amen


  1. It’s amazing what some people think they’re entitled to and what they will do to get their entitlements. Many elderly people are financially exploited by “loving” relatives who are cashing in on their inheritances early before it can be spent on nursing homes. I’ve seen two of my family members die prematurely because they were coerced to rewrite wills or enabled this mentality by going into debt themselves and paid with their lives because of the bind they got themselves in.

    • The love of money can have very sad and destructive consequences.

  2. And yet, God is not obligated to give us eternal life… it is only by his mercy and grace that He has decided in His eternal counsel to give us this right to become His children to those who put their trust in Christ! Nice post!

    • Amen! Isn’t it simply amazing?
      God Bless!

  3. wow. powerful post. and I agree with it. It annoys me when people think they have a right to things like cell phone service. that pales in comparison to our right to become children of God. Thanks for posting this. Continue with the good job.

    • Thanks for the kind words. It is annoying at what people think that they are entitled to.
      God Bless!

  4. The greatest right ever! Thanks for the reminder.


    • Thanks for the kind words and for visiting my blog.
      God Bless!

  5. I made some of the seniors in Sunday school grumble at me a couple of weeks ago, discussing a similar topic. The subject of America being “a Christian nation in decline” came up, and having just blogged about this right before the election, I simply did not resist: I told them that, not only was the USA not a Christian nation, that in fact there had never been one on the earth, and would not be until Christ returns to rule and reign. I pointed at the Declaration’s commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, and contrasted that to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Happiness is all about me getting mine, righteousness is all about me giving and doing to others as He would. I then added in the fact that the very nature of politics requires compromise, and I see very little evidence of compromise in God’s mandates to His people. Governments are instruments of grace, and God elects the rulers He chooses to serve His vision, so the divisiveness and rancor that accompanies what passes for debate these days (see the recent campaign…ugh!) serves no purpose to His Kingdom. We are not citizens of this world, we are ambassadors – so why should we be meddling in the affairs of a foreign nation? This is why I abstain from voting, although I don’t care if others feel differently…we will all give an accounting, and I could be wrong.

    • Nicky, that sounds like a great discussion in the class earlier this month. I have a question about “not meddling in the affairs of a foreign nation”, though. I’ve heard people say similar things as a basis for deciding not to vote, but do you extend this to other ways of engaging with government?

      What I mean is, would you consider working for the government to be another way of being involved in its affairs (so you would not take a job as a firefighter or public school teacher)? Or if a job is ok, what about public office (like being a judge, for example)? If holding a government job or public office is ok, how do you see these as different from casting votes?

      Thanks and blessings,

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