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Christians and rights
Living faith
livingfaith2013
Looking at the world in this time and age, things have been moving very quickly and so fast that most of what we know or have grown up to know vanishes at a rapid pace. In a matter of months, a place can be torn down and rebuilt to very different effect. I have come to realize that in the recent decades, there has been a lot of talk about rights, human rights, gay rights, rights to end our life and so many more things. I question these assumptions and claims today because the world didn't exactly use to be like this. Perhaps it has led us to a stage where we can't be wronged or suffer any kind of grievances that go against the assumed 'rights' that we are entitled to. This is a development today, and it can be somewhat confusing at times. According to my understanding, the conceptualisation of human rights really began in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Notice the word 'universal', that is the first known attempt to make human rights a universal issue. As we know, such an idea first began from the West, with America's great struggle for independence and their emancipation of the negroes being salient examples of America's history on this matter. We also hear from Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence where these rights are "inalienable and inherent". When we look at the issues that we read on the paper, it makes perfect sense: We should not endorse slavery, we should not have racial discrimination, we should not forbid gay marriage, we should not etc etc... The list is long, and it always speaks out for a group of minorities who have failed to enjoy the same kind of equal treatment from the majority. Some say that it is our needs that make these 'rights' inherent and intuitive.

What is a Christian to think of rights today? I'm not qualified to speak about this, but I just have a few thoughts on this. Most of the 'rights' that have been fought for seem to make a lot of sense. But the more we endorse these, it seems that more funny things come up the surface. Some of these issues don't seem to be a clear cut yes-no issue. For example, should polygamy be allowed? Should patients suffering from terminal illnesses be allowed to take their lives? There are ethical concerns at hand. But to say we should not jump on the rights bandwagon seems to be extreme either. How can someone like me deny the 'inherent' rights of mankind that are 'self-evident'? I can't, because it would be inhuman to do so. Some bigger questions fill my mind. Of course, there are always smaller incidences where people justify their behaviour based on the rights they are entitled to. "I have the right to have my opinion." (Does that mean we can be disrespectful and condescending?). "I have a right to choose what I do for my body." (Does that mean we can smoke cigarettes and harm our bodies?) More and more, whether in daily interactions or on the level of states, the "right to" something has been brought up far too much, where Christian counsel is so difficult because we conclude that every individual has all the rights to do anything he/she wants as long as it is not unlawful. On the international level, there has been a phenomena where rights have proliferated to the extent where they have been expanded to allow governments to legitimise their evil actions. Most of the "I have the right to.." that have been thrown around really means that people are asserting their entitlement to be foolish and languish in folly. That's what I think.

Did God give us these human rights? What are human rights founded upon? Human dignity? What kind of human dignity should we enjoy with respect to God? More importantly, what would it mean for a Christian in this era of 'rights'? If one were suffering persecution due to our religion, would we stand up and say, "stop, I have a right to this religion and you are violating my..." Or when we are undergoing a trial that makes us feel miserable, would we continue to endure with His grace or will we be indignant and say, "I have a right to a good life like my neighbours" and then cast it all aside? If for some reason or another, we have homosexual feelings, does that mean that we can say, "I have a right to get married to the one I love, even if he is male."? I think firstly, there are rights that are unbiblical, like homosexual activity and marriage, and rights that are really good to have but not necessary. In all honesty, do Christians have any rights we think we are entitled to? I think sensible Christians know that we are worthless and doomed to suffer eternal death if not for the unmerited grace of God. I feel that we should be comfortable even in a place where we are not given the rights to food or water - provided we understand that live and die for Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, there is a heading that is titled "Live as you are called". I find it very meaningful because God expects us to live the life that He has planned for us. We should not always struggle and fight to change the status quo because we want a better life. Paul says if you are a bondservant, do not be concerned about it (v21). But he also said that if you have the opportunity, do seize it. I think what I understand that would be that Paul wants us to learn to be satisfied in God alone, and not by the circumstances that we are in and the kind of benefits of enjoyment we have. That means we, like Paul, should learn to be content in whatever circumstances we are in, and count our lives to be worthless. In no way does he endorse slavery (I had a friend who confronted me on this). At the end of the day, human rights do benefit a lot of people (as long as they are biblical). But we should be careful not to view these rights as entitlement. If you are a Christian lawyer, I would say use these laws to save those whose lives are terrible so that you can give them better lives. God can be glorified when we champion human rights. But I also believe God can be glorified when human rights are violated. I am sure these words can be misconstrued to mean that when people die of chemical gas, God is being glorified. No, I don't mean that. I mean that Christians can gladly and contentedly allow their 'rights' to be violated in any circumstance because it is not the entitlement that satisfies us, it is in God that we find utmost satisfaction. Secondly, when we suffer for God, our testimony can be glorifying to His name.

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