(Rom 1:1) Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle . . .
There’s a lot of talk these days about human rights. We as Americans have it ingrained in our psyche about “certain unalienable Rights” from the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. And of course, we have our Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution. But human rights are not just American. It’s a global and multi-national concern. There are human rights abuses in every sector of our world. Advocacy groups have sprung up and even certain celebrities are jumping in the fight for human rights.
The cause for human rights is certainly justifiable and worthy of every effort and sacrifice. Those who are weak and who cannot help themselves against aggression and tyranny need the help of those who have the means and resources to fight off bullying. But unfortunately, the concept of human rights for some has become a pretext for selfish aggrandizement. People mistake the idea of “the pursuit of Happiness” as the right to be happy at any cost. That if you’re not happy in your marriage you can walk away. That if you are gay then you have the right to be, as against God’s law. That to get ahead you can push anyone who is in your way. This is when human rights are not right. It’s a misuse of the principle because now by asserting your rights you become the tyrant and the aggressor. Other people pay the price for your actions. That’s not right anymore . . . that is what you call wrong and the source of wrongs.
Back in the apostle Paul’s day there was the reality of being a “bondservant.” It’s another term for being a slave. Slavery was common in the Roman Empire. A bondservant had no rights. You were the property of someone else. You existed to serve them and their interests. It’s interesting that Paul described himself first and foremost as a bondservant, even before an apostle. He gave up his personal rights to serve the Lord.
In Old Testament times the concept of a bondservant was more a choice. To pay off your debts you would work for somebody for six years. At the seventh year you could declare your freedom or become a voluntary and lifelong bondservant because you loved your master and wanted to serve him. Your ear would be pierced with an awl to mark your servitude (Exo 21:1-6).
There will times when we will be required to give up our rights for the right thing. Because we love the Lord we will forego our own personal fulfillment. Because we love others we will give up our own privileges, so we can serve others in their need. It reflects the love of the Lord for His own: (Phil 2:7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant . . .
Human rights. It’s just right to serve our Lord and Master and those people that God puts in our lives. That is the true pursuit and achievement of happiness.
(Acts 20:35) . . . 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"