Do We Really Have God Given Rights?

It’s often touted by Americans that we have certain God given rights. Our constitution declaration of independence say so, right?! The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As Americans we have the right to freedom of speech, to own a gun, and the right vote. But are these really “God given rights?”

 

The Greatest Country

Most Americans, even Christian Americans, will say that America is the greatest country in the world. We have more freedoms here than anywhere in the world. We have more rights here than anywhere in the world. If we look at America through the lens of the world’s system (military might, wealth, freedoms, etc) we very well could be considered the best.

The truth is, if we hold scripture true to its word, and if we filter America through the lens of eternity, She is at best the second best country in the world. According to scripture, Israel is the best. It is God’s chosen land from the beginning.

It is within the borders of Israel where God chose to dwell during the early ages of history; it was the children of Israel whom God chose as His people; and it was Israel where God chose to incarnate Himself through the Son, Jesus Christ.

Everything the believer views, even our national rights and freedoms, has to be filtered through three lenses:

  1. Eternity
  2. Scripture
  3. God’s Eternal Purpose

 

Without these three filtration lenses, we begin to adopt the world’s system of viewing our rights and freedoms, and this mixes with the kingdom of God about as well as oil and water.

Somewhere along the line we have thrown patriotism, statements like “God bless America,” and the idea that America is a Godly country into a blender, and come up with the idea that our patriotism is fully aligned with God’s eternal purpose.

 

I will put this plainly:

God has not called us to pledge our allegiance to a flag, a political party, a president, or to a land. He has called us to pledge our allegiance to Christ, and Him alone.

Don’t get me wrong in this. I love America. I love being an American, and I am thankful the Lord allowed me to be born in this country!

Clement of Alexandria put it this way in the early third-century: “But when one joins God’s people, one has a different country (heaven) and a different lawgiver (God).” Pierre de Labriolle said, “…the Christians are hybrid people. They are paroikoi, resident aliens, living locally and participating in society, but not as full citizens.” — Once we become followers of Christ, we have renounced our citizenship to this world and its systems.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ – Philippians 3:20

We are “sojourners in a foreign land” as Moses proclaimed in Exodus 2:22. We are aliens living in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-12) who are supposed to embody Christ through our habitus (the practices and being of their corporal identity) in order to show the life of Christ to the world. To put it simply: we are to bring heaven to earth.

Our founding fathers declared three inalienable God given rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The problem is that idea of “rights” are actually social constructs. We have “rights” because our government has said we have them, but how often are these same rights taken away, or abused?

Instead of looking to our constitution for guidance on life, we have to look to scripture.

 

Life

We proclaim that life is an inalienable God given right, yet we willfully and lawfully cut life short through roughly 900,000-1,000,000 abortions each year.

The same law that says life is a right, is the same law that condones the sacrificial murder of the innocent.

Is it also a right to life to the stillborn child that doesn’t see the light of day? Is life a right to those martyred for the Gospel? Is it a “right” for those who cannot afford the treatment for cancer, or other highly complex diseases?

How can a constitutional right be considered a God given right, if tomorrow isn’t even promised? In some instances, if you’re not even allowed to see the light of day? Is the “right to life” only applicable to those living within the boarders of the United States?

Life isn’t a right; it’s a gift.

The Bible reminds us that tomorrow is never promised, rather that it is a gift of God. Instead we should worry about today alone.

 

Liberty

Is liberty a right when slavery has plagued mankind since the dawn of time? Is liberty a God given right when he Himself sent the Children of Israel into 400 years of slavery? The Israelites. The Irish. The Indians. The Africans. The Chinese. All of them have faced slavery at some point throughout the ages.

We live within the borders of the “land of the free,” and yet there are those that so freely and willingly enslave themselves to drugs, technology, consumerism and debt, sex (in all of it’s avenues), and countless other shackling strongholds.

 

The Pursuit Of Happiness

In America our insatiable appetite for consumerism has all too often defined our pursuit of happiness, while our brother or sister goes without. How is happiness fulfilled, when our brother goes hungry? Happiness is giving unto the least of these, as unto the Lord (Matthew 25:34-45).

True happiness and joy is found in Christ alone, and the pursuit and fulfillment of his eternal purpose. For too long we have clouded and jumbled happiness with money and possessions. This again is incompatible with the kingdom of God. As believers we understand that anything we have is never really ours in the first place. We are simply stewards of what the Lord has given us.

 

The Right To Freedom Of Speech

Should we go on to talk about our freedom of speech? Just because we have the “right” to the freedom of speech, doesn’t always mean we should exercise it. James tells us both in 1:26 and 3:6

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (1:26)

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life (3:6)

Our right to freedom of speech is subject to the same three filters of eternity, scripture, and God’s eternal purpose as any other of our “rights.”

Not only is speaking subject to this, but so is remaining silent. Many times there is more wisdom in silence than in speech. Jesus told us he only said what he heard the Father saying (John 12:49).

For the Christ follower it is not only a matter of ‘saying or not saying’, but also what you say and how you say it. For us it is about saying “in like manner” (John 5:19) as the Lord would do.

Our speech should be uplifting and wholesome (Eph. 4:29). Our mouth and speech are for praising the Lord and strengthening His body, not because it is a “constitutional right.” (Hebrews13:15; Psalm 34:1, 35:28, 51:15; 1 Peter 2:9)

Listen to what the Psalmist says about his “right to freedom of speech:”

I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” – Psalm 39:1

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. – Psalm 141:3

 

And Paul reiterates these sentiments in his letter to the church at Colossae:

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—Colossians 3:8-10

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17

When we come to Christ, our speech is no longer our own. It is no longer a freedom to be used at will. It is to be tamed and bridled by the Holy Spirit as a means to speak life. That life is Jesus Christ.

 

The Right To Own A Gun

Should we discuss the all to often “God given right” to own a gun?

I have already discussed gun ownership in another article, so I will not repeat it’s contents for the sake of time and space.

I’m all for gun ownership. I own several. Some are for hunting and sport, but also others for defense. I also understand with great power comes great responsibility.

But just because you can own a firearm, doesn’t mean you should. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

 

Radical holiness that Christ calls us to charges us with obedience to his commandments rather than such constitutional rights, and social constructs.

We honor life because of Him who gives life.

We honor freedom because it is for freedom He set us free.

And we honor the pursuit of happiness, because we understand that there is no greater joy than the pursuit of Christ.

I have been criticized in the past for making similar statements as what I have shared above. I have been told I’m “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” I ask, can a true follower of Christ really be too heavenly minded? I would argue to negate this statement with the habitus of my life.

In The Patient Ferment Of The Early Church Alan Kreider discusses how the early church relied more on the actions of their life to preach than their words. In a world with a crushing government such as the Roman Empire, Christianity flourished because the habit of their lives.

While our government has given us countless freedoms through the social constructs of “rights,” Christ calls us to a more radical level of living and holiness. He instructs us to treat others the way we would want to be treated (Matt 7:12), but Paul pushes us one step further to consider others greater than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).

Just because the government says you can do something doesn’t mean you should. When you begin to look at your “God given rights” through the lens of Eternity, Scripture, and God’s eternal purpose it begins to change your perspective of interaction with your fellow American.

God is looking to create something more than a group of American loyalists. He is building a spiritual home, with believers from all across the globe. Let’s look to Biblical instructions, instead of our societal constructions. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who is doing more than we see through our fragmented lens of reality.

 

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9 thoughts on “Do We Really Have God Given Rights?

  1. ‘I have been criticized in the past for making similar statements as what I have shared above. I have been told I’m “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” I ask, can a true follower of Christ really be too heavenly minded? I would argue to negate this statement with the habitus of my life.’

    Never has a piece of advice or an observation been more wrong than “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. Jesus ONLY said and did what the Father was saying and doing. How much more heavenly minded can you get? And we are instructed to do as Jesus did also. We are to be totally, completely, dead-to-self-daily, picking up our crosses, bondservants [willing permanent slaves] of our King. In Him we find freedom in ever becoming more and more like Him, united with Him and with each other just as Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are united. Jesus did and still does much good here on earth, the best good being to redeem to eternal life all who are willing. If we follow Him, we will most assuredly be doing the most earthly good possible.

    • Amen, Timoy. As Christ followers we are to be only heavenly minded. Also, I love that word “duolos,” a willing permanent slave. Such a striking symbol of life in Christ. We are freed, but we choose to only serve the master.

  2. Amen.

    He who loses his life will save it.

    It has been said that the constitution of these United States is the most conducive environment for the preaching of the gospel and the growth of God’s Kingdom because of the freedoms we have. While there is some truth in that if we learn anything from the New Testament it is that the kingdom of God grows radically in an environment of adversity and persecution. God doesn’t need a amiable document from a world system to cause his people to be born again. All those who have been given to Jesus by the Father will come to him.

    The pursuit of any life other than partaking of Divine life is sin. There is no such thing as liberty for those who walk according to the desires of the flesh. In Christ we can count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds.

    • That’s true Bobby. We often look to the constitution to protect our “religious rights” but Jesus even told us we would face persecution.

  3. “Everybody wants to enjoy heaven after they die, but they don’t want to be heavenly-minded while they live.” – D.L. Moody

    • Andy, you are certainly right. I completely blanked on that portion. Thank you for pointing it out. Sometimes my fingers get typing too fast for my brain.

  4. Interesting take on the notions of the Constitution and Biblical principles.

    I would venture a different look to some of these rights as touted by the U.S. Constitution.

    Within the realm of life, I agree and somehow that is lost both Scripturally and Constitutionally.
    Within the realm of liberty, I think based on the prior experiences of the framers of the Constitution, they talk more in the realm of social and political liberty since they were so used to a corrupt monarchy and in so doing want a nation that was not built upon the principles of a governing monarch. I also don’t think the framers necessarily wanted to establish a theocractic government as well since they decided that a constitutional republic would be the type of government that was established. Which in turn allows for the citizens under this type of government to live under the same socio-political liberties the Constitution was designed to instill amongst the people it applies to.
    Within the realm of the pursuit of happiness, we both know that the happiest a person is is when they are submitted to the authority of God as God Himself is the happiest being ever. One Who is of great joy and happiness. Again, the notion of happiness from the POV of the framers is more about personal happiness and how one wants to achieve that in life.

    The Freedom of Speech I believe is not one where one polices speech. I do think that the commandment of speech for the Christian is one that is not about crassness and being derogatory (although, there have been instances of scatological humor riddled through Scripture, and God does call certain types of women “cows” believe it or not!). I think this is an important “right” because for the Christian, the Gospel presentation to another should be freely told and let loose into the marketplace of ideas which is what freedom of speech means. That’s not to say if that freedom is taken away that the Christian cannot speak because then we go underground and do it anyway because the eternal destination of a person’s soul is what the Christian worries and is concerned about so we preach Christ crucified and resurrected regardless of socio-political situations. But for me, the freedom of speech is not so much as policing how ones speak as one’s personal choice, but that no type of speech is in fact policed from a legislative standpoint. I would argue as a Christian because I do not want my speech policed or labeled hate speech because I’m telling someone the greatest news they will ever hear, I will defend the right of a racist to say what he/she wants because this allows a free pass for the Gospel to also be shared. The moment we police language and thought, it will come back to shut down preaching and teaching (it’s already started in Canada with Bill C16). Again, a Christian will go underground and speak Christ anyways but for the sake of this particular right, it’s about not legislating speech from a governmental standpoint. Personal responsibility on how one speaks is something different but to be able to say whatever freely I think is important BECAUSE it ties directly with how we are able to freely share the Gospel with folks that we are to love.

    As far as being a Christian wherein our citizenship is in heaven which I think is a point that should be embraced across the spectrum of Christ-followers, I do know that as a Christian, we are also called to obey the law of the land, and to plant ourselves where we are at (even as exiles), and do good for the place we are planted in. A case for this I have found is in Jeremiah 29 where it contains that verse we all know and love (albeit we haven’t a clue as to the meaning of it since we ripped the verse entirely out of its context!) about how God has a plan for us, of good and not evil, to prosper etc etc etc. If we look at the verses prior on top of the historic context regarding this section, we’ll see Israel in exile as a disciplinary act due to their disobedience about the law of the sabbath regarding agriculture. This act of exile by God was the whipping of his kids and Nebuchadnezzar was the switch. And in Jer 29, we see God through his prophet telling the children of Israel to build houses in your exile, plant gardens, get your sons to marry and give your daughters over to marriage and be fruitful and multiply in the land that you are in. Why? Because God has a plan for good. It’s never been about nationalism, it’s been about legacy and as a Christian, the impact to culture for the sake of the Gospel is always about loving God, living out that love, and loving your neighbor and to do good in the place you’re in whether that be Amarillo or in my case, Atlanta. Yes, we are exiles, yes we are denizens of a better kingdom with a better governmental structure which is overseen by a great great King, but this King assigned us this world to tell everyone about this King and to live this assignment out and to do good in the places were are at.

    I think America is that experiment in which allows the Christian to be that ambassador to do good for America and to ultimately show this nation Who Christ is. And the Constitution is the defense contract God has granted America to allow that. Sure there will be competing ideologies and that’s fine. We then take up Paul’s stance as he observed the Athenian marketplace and found the promanade of deities and presented to the philosophers of Mars Hill the name and face of the unknown alter they erected. So to in the marketplace of ideas America allows, amongst the Allah of Islam, the pan-theism of Hinduism and yoga, the godless god of Agnosticism and Atheism, Christ, the desire for non-existance (nirvana) as coined by the deified Siddartha Gautama, the partial understanding of Yahweh in Judiasm, and any other idea found in religion, one thing is certain, Christ stands out apart from them, this we know. And in so doing, allow for the freedom to say it.

    • Eugene, You are absolutely right, and thank you so much for such a well thought out response! We have wonderful rights, all of which I am eternally grateful that the Lord has allowed me to be born in this country and partake of those rights. — The founding fathers did not want a theocracy (that was what they were escaping from), and many of them were actually against Christianity/theology.

      I would say the undercurrent of these rights, and the life of every believer, is not to be policed by the government, but to be policed by the Holy Spirit.

      Are we bringing every action, thought, and word into subjection under Christ’s headship (regardless of what our governmental documents allow us to do)?

      We are to police ourself, and allow the Holy Spirit to draw us in to the likeness of Christ. Every one of these social constructs known as rights serves a VERY purposeful role, especially in the life of a believer. We must in turn filter each of these rights through the lens of God’s eternal purpose. Not only what happens now, but how is God using my fulfillment of this “right” to bring about His purposes.