The words, “I have my rights” could be the most common human protest, at least in the western world. When I read the verses from my devotional this morning, the idea of God-given rights popped up. The United Nations drew up their decree, but what rights does a person have under God?
First the Bible word translated “rights.” It is exousia in Greek and describes an ability or a privilege. Subjectively, it is about having the force, capacity, competency, or freedom to do something. Objectively it is about mastery including being delegated influence or given authority, having jurisdiction, being free, given power. That is, the Bible defines rights much the same as everyone else. This is about freedom and power.
Today’s verses describe the primary human right that is granted by God to human beings . . .
Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12–13)I have the right (authority and ability) to become a child of God, not because of my birth, natural heritage, or the decision of my parents or anyone else. This right is given by God to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Without faith in His name, I cannot claim the right to be His child.
This is awesome. Some demand their right to the family fortune. Some demand their right to carry guns. Some demand their right to be heard. God gives the right to be included in His eternal family.
God grants other rights too. He gives kings the right to rule and husbands the right to lead their families (and the rest of us protest both privileges). He grants believers the right to be heard in that we can come before His throne anytime. He also grants us access to the power of the Holy Spirit, another tremendous and often overlooked right and privilege.
The universal declaration of human rights begins with saying all are born free and equal in dignity and rights. However, God says we are born in sin, without the dignity of His forgiveness and blessing. We have the right to be His children, but apart from that, our only privilege is that He lets us live even though our sins warrant death.
The universal declaration of human rights says we are endowed with reason and conscience, and many think that their rationale and sense of what is right is the only way to live. However, God says that even our ability to be rational is polluted by sin. Those who cling to reason very often wind up reasoning away their sin and living contrary to God because, as His Word says, their conscience does not work the way it was intended. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.”
The human rights decree says we should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. This is based on the assumption of unclouded reasoning and a pure conscience. History shows that while human beings can at times shine forth traces of the image of God in which we are created, most of us think only of ourselves and what is in this for me.
To live is Christ means that my rights begin with what God gives me — the right to call myself His child. He offered that authority and privilege, not because I am special, but because He alone has the right to do whatever He pleases. I am so glad that He gave me what I do not deserve — new life, faith in Him, and a place in His family.