_ Human Rights stem directly from Christian thought – it is easy to explain why every human being has certain rights if we hold that every human being is made in God’s image. Secular attempts to justify human rights have a much harder time. But this post isn’t about human rights in the normal way we understand it to mean: the rights of a man in relation to other men. Instead, this post is about the rights of men before God and the fact that we have none.
As facts go this one in particular we hate and the extent to which we hate it is reflected by the extent to which we fail to grasp the nature of God and the nature of man. At heart, we all like to think that God is pretty equal to us and that we can relate to him much as though it were a relationship of equals. To be told that we don’t have a single right before God, even to life, goes against our grain and usually diminishes our view of God. ‘Well,’ we huff ‘If God does not value my rights as a human being then he obviously isn’t a very good God and I’m not going to value him.’
_ The more pride we have in ourselves the more this fact galls us for when we look at ourselves we see plenty to be pleased with and consider that we must have rights before God. Yes, we will admit to having our little character flaws but by in large as good people we feel that God should respect where we’re coming from and realize that we do have the right to ask certain things of him and insist he doesn’t do other things to us.
Where this thinking goes wrong is in its failure to grasp the exceeding sinfulness of man and the exceeding righteousness of God. Two verses to this affect:
“And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah 6 v 3
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3 v 10 - 18
We have here the stark contrast between God and man: God as holy, pure, good, morally perfect and beautiful and man as wicked, deceitful and bitter. Jesus’ assessment on man was: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15v19) and John writes: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3v19)
We have no grounds to stand before God on merit, he does not owe us anything, in fact, we are deserving of death for that is the wages of our disobedience to God. Our only right is to claim justice before the Judge and that would result in our condemnation.
As our Creator God is at perfect liberty to do with us what he will and: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Daniel 4 v 35).
When we grumble at God, when we despise him, when we go before him and insist we have rights he must respect then we are blind to the facts of the matter: he is God and we are but men, sinful, rebellious and wayward in everything we do and think. Our correct response to the holiness of God should be like Isaiah who upon seeing the glory of God said: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6v5)
Unless we grasp the wickedness of our own hearts and the holiness of God we will continue to resent the fact that God does not deal with us as though we have rights for we don’t. Instead, and this annoys us even more, he deals with us through grace and wrath; grace being his unmerited favour and wrath being his righteous response to evil.
Firstly his grace extends to the entire human race in that: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5v45). Theologians call this ‘common grace’ and it covers a lot more than the weather: any good thing is from God, any gift you have, any joy in your life, any comfort in this world, all are given to us by God. Our very lives are a result of his grace, every beat of our hearts a gift, God gives good things to all of mankind. We think we deserve them, we think we deserve a good life, we rarely thank God for the good things we have but oh, when things go wrong, we are swift to blame him! We have no right even to the breath in our lungs or the money in our bank account for all is given by God to us. Jacob said: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” (Genesis 32v10) and that should be our attitude, we do not deserve the least of God’s mercies to us.
Additionally, God not only deals with us through common grace but saving grace. That is, he extends common grace to all people but he only extends saving grace to his people. If you are a Christian, born again, then it is by grace you have been saved. While a topic for a different day it is worth saying that there are many blessings which are connected with saving grace and so only apply to God’s people. God did not have to send Jesus to die for sins and thereby open up a way for people to be saved but out of his great love he chose to. Thus he has every right to extend the gift of salvation to those whom he will and withhold it from others for none have the right to demand salvation. If they did it would cease to be of grace and become of works.
The second way in which God deals with humanity is by his wrath, his anger against sin for: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” (Romans 1v18) and “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galations 6v7). Not only is God’s grace an active force in this world but so is his wrath. In this life and certainly at Judgement Day we will all be held to account for our sin and justly punished. How could a morally perfect God do anything other than punish evil? So we see in this world: pain, suffering, anguish, death – all a consequence for our sins because of God’s wrath. Note: he is not the author of sin but his wrath is set against it.
Rightly it is said: “Behold the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11v22). We have no rights before him, we cannot object to how he deals with us, our only response should be to turn to him, humble ourselves and seek mercy. Such is God’s love that he looks upon us with such compassion and desires that all should turn and repent of their evil. It is easy to think that God has not treated us as we deserve, when we do this we should bear two things in mind: first is that we deserve hell and second that by his grace we have a way to be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.