Not that anyone cares, but where I live I happen to be drowning in rights, the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney unqualified to use an electric can opener without supervision, the right to buy insurance I cannot afford, the right to bring my own bags to the grocery store or face fines, the right to sort my recycling properly, the right to purchase a pass to go to the park, so, so many rights…..
I’m telling you, I am literally drowning in “freedom,” suffocating under all my rights, even. People speak of rights now and I literally groan. Oh dear Lord, please no more rights….
Don’t worry, I am still a freedom loving America, likely to celebrate the Bill of Rights on the 4th of July by blasting off illegal fire works and eating burnt hot dogs still cold in the middle, but there is a paradox within faith I am always keenly aware of. Faith is not about our rights at all, it is actually about surrendered rights. Zero entitlement. No rights.
Rights are defined as “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” In faith we have no moral or legal entitlement to anything. Anything we get is a gift, a blessing, the things we like and the things we don’t.
First let me say Jesus Christ is quite the gentleman. He loves us so much, He gave His very life for us. God loves us dearly and cares about our human dignity. I sometimes quip about God’s anesthesia. Long before we even thought of such things, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep before ripping out his rib. He didn’t have to you know, but He did.
That always makes me laugh, mostly because I am not Adam, but also because in the modern world we tend to forget, anesthesia is actually optional. It is not a “right.”
God cared enough to knock Adam out. Sometimes I also care enough to knock Adam……..never mind.
The point being, while God is good, always, we have no “rights” to anything.
Sometimes I get a bit squirly when people speak of “rights” in terms of faith. When we place ourselves under a Higher Authority, that is what we are doing, letting go of our rights. Thy will be done, not mine.
I understand why people do it and I appreciate the encouragement even. I need to hear that I am part of a “royal priesthood,” that being claimed has its privileges, that it is God’s will to bless us. I need to hear that good health can be mine, that a certain amount of prosperity can be mine, that being molded into something Jesus finds pleasing can be mine. Can be. I need to hear those things because sometimes I forget and, “you have not because you ask not.” If there is a blessing available, we should be reaching out for it.
BUT, we are not entitled to these things, they are not our “rights” as if God is mandated to deliver. This is so important to understand because when the poo really hits the fan of life, we need to understand we do not have the right to good health, we do not have the right to have our children turn out the way we want, we do not have the right to our finances, or even the right to our marriages. We have the right to what God gives us and what He allows us. No more, no less.
When we get sick for example, or divorced, or hit by a bus, we don’t want to be thinking our rights have been violated, we are getting a bum deal, or God hates us. That is the problem with this bit of teaching, it can place a false burden on people that should not be there.
Being an American, especially in the modern world, we are all about our rights, entitlements, and limits on authority, our own perceived freedom. Let freedom reign…..
As I began at the start of this post, a bit tongue in cheek, but “rights” are not always such a good thing. In America we tend to just perceive rights as an absolute good. Not necessarily true, surrendered rights can actually be a much greater blessing.
Freedom and rights are kind of married to one another in the US, both entwined in perceived goodness. Can one really have too much freedom? Could that ever be a bad thing? It could, indeed. We are often blessed with the burden of a good marriage, freedom from such a marriage being undesirable, scary even. Many people actually surrender their rights as single people and happily chose the bondage of marriage. To suddenly regain one’s “rights and freedom” in a divorce say, is not always such a cheerful thing. Kids too, we all have days we wish to be free of them, but not for long, not really. If someone comes and takes our children, that is not really a freedom we want. Anyone wish to be free of all their property, wealth, savings?
In truth, what makes us happiest as people are often those relationships in our lives related to surrendered rights and surrendered freedom. Less rights, less freedom, more surrender to authority. Family is a kind of authority and as annoying as it can be sometimes to always have to tell people where you are going and how long you will be gone, it’s much sadder to have no one to tell at all, no one who really cares where you are.
America is kind of at a cross roads here, we’re focused a lot on people’s alleged rights, freedom, and perceived entitlement to challenge authority, but we’re doing it at the same time we are also devaluing tradition, traditional families, relationships, and traditional authority structures. And our very faith.
One thing that has always made America work has been that paradox between the freedoms outlined and protected in our Constitution and our willingness to surrender all rights and freedom to our faith, to God. America works as a free country because so many of the people who have lived here have placed themselves under a Higher Authority, consented to surrender our individual freedom to God’s authority. Of course we are deeply flawed, of course we have never done it perfectly, but that ideal has always been there.
I speak of this over and over again because few people today understand that what tends to make us happiest as people are actually those relationships that embrace authority, surrendered rights, and no desire for freedom. But also, that faith paradox is what makes America work. If we pull the Christian values out from under our country, we lose the foundation, the cornerstone that has kept us afloat for a little over 200 years.
One certainly not need to be an American to be a Christian, but without Christians there will be no America.