October 21, 2017

Pursuit Of Happiness?

Editor’s note: Joe Spann will be contributing to our iMonk community from time to time. He previously wrote about our Dangerous God. Joe is not a “professional Christian,” simply a follower of Jesus learning as he goes. And for the record, I am the “friend” who asked the question that got this whole topic started–Jeff

By Joe Spann

Recently a friend asked me a simple question, “As followers of Christ, do we have a right to happiness?”

Hmmm…a right to happiness?   The question has dominated my thoughts since then.  And now finally it seems that sleep itself will elude me until I make at least a feeble attempt to explore my thoughts on the subject.

I suppose it would be good to start by defining and addressing the idea of a “right”.  After all, every social contract philosophy that has had any hand in shaping modern democratic or representative government is predicated on the existence of natural rights.  The idea of natural rights is that they are rights that exist in the logos.  They are part of the base principles which govern the universe.  It is this God-given quality of rights which makes them in fact natural.

They are, insofar as society is concerned, “inalienable” as the American founders so aptly put it.  A right is not truly a right unless it is indispensable and inseparable from the individual.  It defines the individual within his society: my rights only end where they infringe upon another’s. In other words, if natural rights do exist then they must be given by God as opposed to assigned by man.  If they do not exist then we’re going to want to re-think this whole western civilization thing.  Just chalk the last thousand years or so up as a learning experience and move on.

The Creator seems to have written free will into the story pretty early on with that whole forbidden tree thing.  Without claiming to be an expert theologian, that seems to me to indicate the existence of some sort of natural freedom, that obedience and service were designed by God to be voluntary.  So, while I can’t point to a place in scripture that includes a specific treatise on the rights of man, it does seem clear that God made us to be free moral agents.  Some would even say that it was ultimately the coming of the logos in the flesh (our Lord Christ) which sowed the seeds whose maturity eventually bore the fruit of individual rights replacing the divine right of kings in Western thinking.

Recently I have had some discussions with some friends about Christians who are persecuted.  We all shared an immense admiration for the strength of the church and the courage of the believers in places where following Christ is synonymous with death.  We spent some time bemoaning the sickness of the Western Church that has adopted a sort of capitalist-hybrid model of community.  Church is big business here in America.

I very quickly found that our discussion had the tendency to speak of freedom and safety as though they were poisonous things.  Somehow we were bemoaning our own lack of persecution and poverty while romanticizing the idea of living in an oppressive situation.  We were ashamed to be American Christians and wanted to pretend at every turn that we were somehow different from the rest of our sickly church-going friends.  Shame on us.  Really?  Is that what our forefathers bled for?  Is that what my sister on the other side of the world in prison for her faith would have me do?  Be ashamed of my freedom and blessing?

No.  Natural rights exist; given by our Creator.  Our society prospers because, for the most part, it leaves the rights of its citizens in tact.  We should not be ashamed of it.  In fact, in the name of all that are persecuted now, we should fight to retain it.  We should fight for the defense of every human’s natural rights.  It is one of the few ideas that I believe worthy of the giving of one’s own life and even taking other’s lives in defense of (calm down everyone, I am not attempting to discuss Christ’s position on war vs. pacifism here).

These same rights should not and cannot be stripped away by God or anyone else.  Let’s look at the act of simple charity as an example.  True charity is indeed a small abdication of rights. However, the giving is as much for the heart of the giver as for the benefit of the recipient.  Forced charity is no longer charity at all but simple tyranny.  Tyranny strips away the crown that we were intended to surrender at the throne of Christ.  The involvement of our will is an absolute necessity for charity to be what Christ intended.

It also seems that God seems to ultimately have our happiness in mind. The entire biblical story can be seen as God’s effort to restore our “happiness”.  The very reason for Christ to come to earth was that we might have life and life more abundantly through restored communion with our Creator.

I think the question—Do we have a right to happiness?—betrays a deeper sentiment.  Happiness is the state of contentment or satisfaction.  It would be unnatural to conclude that anyone has an inalienable right to a state of contentment.  I think we have a natural desire, nay a NEED, for happiness.  We have a deep-seated aching hunger for contentment.  What we are really asking here is do we have the RIGHT to manipulate our circumstances in search of this state of contentment.  The simple answer is yes.  All men have that right, it is inalienable…

…but not if you follow Christ.

Christ made His mission very clear: to reconcile man to God, to redeem all of creation, to bring eternal abundant life.  He also made the nature of His journey very clear: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself (and all the natural rights which define him) and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

To our ears, this scripture has taken on years of cultural lacquer, giving it the smooth sheen of cliché.  I would hazard to guess that to the ears that first heard them, these words had a few more rough edges.  To those of us that have been immunized into a post-modern, culturally relevant version of following Christ, “taking up our cross” alludes to a carefully defined set of slightly uncomfortable circumstances.  We may get sideways glances when we pray over our meal at lunch, or be laughed at the first time we awkwardly declare our Christianity at school.  To Christ’s contemporaries, “taking up your cross,” meant that your journey could only end one way.

To put it in context, Christ asks that, should you decide to follow Him, you should report tomorrow morning to your state penitentiary and present yourself to guards on death row.  Once there, trade in your carefully chosen clothing for a pair of safety-orange coveralls and some cheap plastic flip-flops, strap chains on your wrists and ankles and begin to shuffle down the hall toward the execution room.  Then repeat this process every day until you succeed in completing the task.

A bit more morbid eh?  Not particularly thrilling?  The nature of the journey is a complete voluntary abdication of all of our natural rights.  It is a changing of our very nature; a redefining of our natural state.  So if we find ourselves claiming our right to happiness, we need to beware that we are putting distance between Christ and us on our journey.  We can maintain our right to happiness – we really can.  But we’ve set down the cross and struck out on our own.

In this sense, our own natural rights become our curse.  We protect our rights and so protect the chains that bind us, the disease that maims us.

This is the great mystery that Christ came to reveal.  Everything in this curse-ridden world, our rights and our happiness included, is a sickly shadow of what God intended until it falls to the ground and dies.  The happiness we pursue is a mirage.  At every milestone it will disappear around the next corner.  Such is the curse of desire and fulfillment in our world.  Desire is a lack of fulfillment, fulfillment the death of desire.  They cannot coexist.  If we want to follow Christ to find ourselves, we’re sorely mistaken.  Christ’s journey is not a journey of self-discovery.  It is a journey to the grave.

Christ’s call to follow Him to death is also our freedom from a slavery we did not recognize.  When Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler, He had his freedom and happiness in mind.  He would have to die to his current life and so experience the true freedom of satisfaction in the kingdom of God.

When we read of persecuted or martyred Christians, it is not the simple fact of their poverty or death that makes them heroic.  It is the nobility with which they surrender what their captors claim to have taken anyway.  Death or poverty themselves are not noble states to be sought by followers of Christ.  When a Christian is martyred they do not surrender their natural rights to their government or the regime that martyrs them. They do exactly the opposite.  With their dying breath, they wrest their natural rights out of the iron grasp of earthly powers to deliver them into the hands of the Lord they have chosen.  It is an act of their free will against towering odds which makes them heroic to us.  Likewise, it is not our lack of persecution that makes us sickly as followers of Christ, it is what we have done or not done with our own free will.  We envy them because the natural state of things for the martyr exposed what we sense should be true for us as well.  That to follow Christ means both our freedom and our death.

Choose this journey, choose to die and Christ becomes holder and protector of our rights.  He promises to make the grave a womb for our rebirth.   When we abdicate our right to happiness the nearness of Christ Himself becomes our good and every right we need.  We die to the shadow of freedom and live to the reality of being free.  That we bear a cross on the way to die means naught in the light of our growing proximity to Christ.  The seeds of Eden become rooted in the soil of our hearts and those around us begin to smell the fruit.  Eternity begins to seep through the cracks of our minutes, days, and years.  Heaven and earth mingle in our world.

The anticipation of ultimate contentment begins to arouse desires on a level that makes our previous attempts at happiness nauseatingly bland.  The marriage of desire and fulfillment is consummated in our souls, as we are re-introduced to communion with our Creator.

As for the question of whether we have the right to pursue our own happiness, we do, as all men do.  It is ours to decide what to do with this right.  Everyone will offer ideas.  Oprah will gladly provide a different idea every week or so.

We should take up these rights and recognize the full gravity of the gift.  This freedom, these natural rights are as sacred as life itself.  Let no one deprive us of them.  If threatened, defend them.

But when the offer of Christ comes to take up our cross and follow Him, do we really want to keep them?  Do these rights compare to the closeness of Christ?  If we defend this right to happiness against the call of Christ, we settle for the desert on the edge of the promise land, we embrace a shadow.  Nobody can take these rights from us.  We give them up.  Our particular rights to our particular means of happiness are the seeds that are buried, what will they become in resurrection?  Christ is our journey and our destination.  So the journey begins…the journey to our death and our freedom.

Comments

  1. John kaess says:

    Excellent job. I look forward to hearing more from Joe.

  2. Happiness is used in the Constitution in the classical sense of one having the right to pursue the kind of virtuous living that yields a flourishing human life. The constitution is not affirming the right to pursue happiness in the romantic sense of an emotive of state of good feelings.

  3. Sigh. I have grown weary with this type of rhetoric.

    I once asked a Christian teacher the difference between martyrdom in Christianity and in Islam. He could not answer it, but a sharp student did. The student said that Christians are not to actively seek martyrdom, but face it if they must.

    Given the fact that Christians are being persecuted as they are overseas, I am thankful to God Almighty that I was born in the United States, a country whose founding was heavily influenced by Christians seeking the freedom from persecution (nod to the Puritans). To lay down my “natural rights” for the cause of martyrdom to be is taking what God has blessed me with and tossing it aside, which to me seems insulting to God. I would rather gather Christians from countries that persecute them and bring to America where they are free to be Christians without threat to life or liberty.

    You state, “Death or poverty themselves are not noble states to be sought by followers of Christ.” But isn’t laying down our natural rights to life and liberty the very means by which we seek death and poverty?

    I cannot simply spiritualize the idea of taking up one’s cross to the laying down one’s natural rights. It translates into one of two possibilities. Either I fight to defend the right to life and liberty for myself and for my nieghbor (especially fellow Christians) or I surrender those rights to those who would take them from me and my neighbor. I read you saying I should do both, that I should both wage war and be a pacifist.

    There is no gray area of theory here. This is real life, where there is real dirt under your real fingernails. Either we have life and liberty or we do not.

    • Todd Erickson says:

      It seems that you would argue that we as Christians should avoid anybody and anyone that would threaten our lives, whether or not they need Jesus.

      This would also seem to argue that:

      A. you do not trust Christ to use Christian testimony in those situations;
      B. you believe that you have a better idea of what Christ needs from you than Christ does;
      C. that this life has more worth than who we are in Christ.

    • You said, “To lay down my ‘natural rights’ for the cause of martyrdom to be is taking what God has blessed me with and tossing it aside, which to me seems insulting to God.”

      And yet that seems to be exactly the example that Jesus gave us in Phil. 2:1-11, when he gave up His natural rights as God. He didn’t romanticize the suffering – – His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane indicates otherwise – – but Phil 2:3-4 describes a greater good.

      It’s as if being a “new creature” settles the issue of “natural rights” with the resurrection, and brings us a new set of “natural priorities”.

    • To Mr. Peak: But isn’t laying down our natural rights to life and liberty the very means by which we seek death and poverty?

      Yes and no. We do not seek poverty and death in and of themselves, but we seek to follow the one WHO is on HIS way to calvary (daily) and commands us to follow HIM (daily). This will mean givning up much, as HE directs, we have no “right” as Americans to pre-empt HIM, but HIS goal in not poverty or death, it’s the explosion of HIS Kingdom, and our Christlikeness. If poverty or death helps us in that cause, then who are we to argue ?? God wants and fashions our blessedness, but that can come in some very strange packages.

      Beware of thinking like an American first, and a Christian second.
      Greg R

    • MW-
      This isn’t about natural rights, and it isn’t about immolating democracy and embracing dhimmitude. It’s just the opposite of the Prosperity Gospel. Earthly happiness isn’t the ultimate measuring stick, and you are guaranteed nothing. Wherever life takes you, Jesus is the point of orientation. Don’t flee Him when things get unpleasant (as a Muslim, BTW, is allowed to do).
      This doesn’t mean we leave Christians in Muslim countries to rot, and I personally would love to bring over more of them, and less of their jihadi countrymen.

  4. Donalbain says:

    Either I fight to defend the right to life and liberty for myself and for my nieghbor (especially fellow Christians)

    What? So, a Muslim or an atheist is NOT someone you should fight as strongly for? Good Samaritan not ring any bells?

    • Lukas db says:

      We should fight as strongly for them. That wasn’t the point. The reason that was brought up was an academic point; the poster was wondering if a Christian is not better off in a situation of suffering, and if they therefore should not be left alone if they are being persecuted. Obviously, the conclusion was that no, it is not better; and no, we should not leave them be. This does not mean that, just because we should help Christians, we shouldn’t help other people in such situations. It seems to me you are trying to find some excuse to rail at Christians; nowhere was it said that we should only help Christians. So far as it is implied, I disagree.

      • Donalbain says:

        No. It was stated that Christians should ESPECIALLY be fought for. Meaning others should be fought for less.

  5. dumb ox says:

    The Wikipedia has some good background on the origin of the phrase.

    But I tend to agree with Jefferson, that the pursuit of happiness is important…IF we still believe in free will and have not surrendered completely determinism. Hebrews 12:2 states, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame”. Jesus endured the cross, not out of destiny, not out of cruel demands, but out of free will and love. We carry our crosses, as stated in the Epitome of the Lutheran Articles of Concord, “not..from fear of punishment, like a servant, but from love of righteousness, like children”; and regarding free will, “in conversion God, through the drawing of the Holy Ghost, makes out of stubborn and unwilling men willing ones, and that after such conversion in the daily exercise of repentance the regenerate will of man is not idle, but also cooperates in all the works of the Holy Ghost, which He performs through us. ”

    Determinism is a popular notion, particularly among young atheists and those following Einstein’s “cosmic religion”. But there is a growing sense of determinism among the young, restless, and reformed. As much as I decry pelegianism, I will take it any day over a whole-sale abandonment of the doctrine of free will. The founding fathers were seeking to build a government where people chose the good out of volition and not by the cruelty or demands of a monarch. Naive? Perhaps.

    But I think Christians need to look long and hard at what motivates them. If not by love and joy of serving Christ, they what? Fear? Hope for a reward? Destiny? The voice inside my head told me to? Because the pastor beat me over the head with the bible on Sunday? To follow the next popular fad sweeping the church?

    The more deterministic our thinking becomes, the more impersonal our theology becomes, and the more pessimistic our anthropology becomes.

  6. Lewis wrote a little essay on the “right to happiness.”

    http://www.sunnipath.com/library/Articles/AR00000268.aspx

  7. Jesus said, “take up you cross and follow me;” “no man has a greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends.” (of course this is equally true for woman). St. Paul said, “I die daily.”

    The above, read just as the basic written words they are, do not speak of life or happiness. They speak of sacrifice, pain, self-denial, selflessness, putting others first, not seeking our own way, not demanding our way be what is done, the list could go on and on. These things could easily be seen as opposite roads to happiness –
    not getting our own way..ouch!
    self- denial-ouch!
    putting others first – ouch!
    Yet, if we truly embrace the Christian walk, following the life of the Master, living according to what Jesus taught and exemplified by his own life, all of the above will become aspects of our life.

    Taking up one’s cross is a real concrete daily experience if we choose to live as Jesus lived and choose to embrace what Jesus taught and allow it to transform our lives. It is not something we ‘spiritualize’ it is concrete real everyday living. We choose every day, every moment, life or death. The paradox is: to choose life we will lose it in this world, to choose death we will seek to ‘save” our personal ‘world’ ; desires, wants.

    I think one real question we must ask to put Joe’s thoughts in the right perspective is, ‘What is true freedom??’ We have been given by our Creator a free will. We are free to make choices. Do our wants and desires match up with God’s wants and desires 100% of the time? I think not. So is true freedom doing what we want when we want how we want? The freedom our country offers us allows us to exercise this exact type of freedom : doing what we want when we want how we want. We can learn any trade we want to earn a living how we want to live where we want in a house we want to have the children we want go to school where we want…etc etc. BUT IS THIS AUTHENTIC FREEDOM?? Many people who have fulfilled all of the above are some of the most unhappy people. You would think that having it all in a country that allows so many choices and opportunities would be the ultimate fulfillment of bringing about happiness as compared to someone who lives in a dictatorship regime, has to hand over the highest percentage of what they make, has to stand in line hoping there will be enough bread left when they get to the store, lives in constant fear of being in the crossfire of government soldiers etc. Yet, the truth is, there are those who live in the most dire conditions and yet are truly content and live happy lives…. I was a missionary for 10 years and saw this first hand. I remember being told of the lepers on the Cape Verde islands that were sent by the government to the mountain regions away from “civilization”. They used rusty cans to drink out of, lived very poor and demanding lives to survive. Yet, the faces of these people glowed with a joy unknown to many. They had basically all their human rights taken away by others due to their illness yet a sincere laughter and glowing smiles were as natural to them as it is to breath. Jesus was at the center of their lives. This is so hard for someone in our culture to imagine let alone believe yet it is so very true.

    I am not saying all people in these conditions have found contentment. I am not saying that such conditions are worthy of the dignity of the human person. I am not saying that such conditions shouldn’t be fought against. I am simply putting out there the truth and reality that there is something about the idea of what happiness and contentment is that evades the western culture.

    My experience has been that the happiest and most content periods in my life is when I chose self-denial over self-fulfillment; when I chose to accept someone else’s way over my own; when I gave up my right, to have and experience human, good, enjoyable things, to be at the service of others who were in severe need on many levels. I also found in these moments I experienced the greatest freedom. Freedom from myself – free from the pain of wanting my own way and not getting it, free from the frustrations and irks that life could bring because I was learning to put things into right perspective about what truly mattered. I realized God was using my choice to embrace His way, my own cross, to give me the freedom to truly love. God is Love and when we love God’s way there is truly a contentment and happiness that go way beyond anything this life can offer.

    I so agree with Joe, having our priority be all that encompasses happiness on the human level instead of having our priority be the cross Jesus told us to embrace to die daily, a daily martyrdom to self, is like ‘settling for the desert on the edge of the promise land’. A young Carmelite nun once said, ” I found my heaven on earth because Heaven is God and God is in my soul.”

  8. The right to happiness. I’m not sure I see that even in the US founding documents. I see the right to pursue happiness, but not the right to happiness itself. Just a quick re-read at 32,000 feet.

    I would also suggest that a Christian’s rights are similar to that of driving to an “uncontrolled” intersection. You know, the intersection without lights and signs. If people know that an intersection is uncontrolled, they enter cautiously and don’t generally assume right of way. If signs are present (a semi controlled intersection), then there’s a bit less caution. Finally, traffic lights (controlled) cause a less-cautious intersection. If my light is green, I am more likely to not slow down for the crossing of the intersection.

    I grew up in a small town with a 5-way intersection. At one point (well before my birth), there was a square in the middle with hitching posts, etc. Well, at the intersection, there have been 2 stop signs – that’s it. The other three ingresses to the intersection had nothing. Yet, because of the convergence of out-of-town traffic through the intersection, even the locals knew to slow down (30MPH zone anyway) while crossing.

    Our rights, I think, in Christ are like that. Yielding to others gives the greatest freedom.

  9. Wesley Neary says:

    1520s, “good fortune,” from happy + -ness. Meaning “pleasant and contented mental state” is from 1590s. 1, 2. pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction. Happiness, bliss, contentment, felicity imply an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction. Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good: the happiness of visiting one’s family. Bliss is unalloyed happiness or supreme delight: the bliss of perfect companionship. Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires, even though every wish may not have been gratified: contentment in one’s surroundings. Felicity is a formal word for happiness of an especially fortunate or intense kind: to wish a young couple felicity in life.
    Quite simply the answer is no.
    A friend once told me you can’t be saved unless you honestly feel as if you’ve received a free gift from God. So i would argue is this idea of happiness, only received through the form of a free gift.
    A right that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, or a moral, ethical, or legal principle considered as an underlying cause of truth, justice, morality, or ethics. Our underlying cause as Christians is Christ who has afforded us the gift of salvation. The mirage Joe alludes to is ownership or rights, they quite literally exist only for God.
    If this is obtuse or semantics I apologize. May God bless you and keep you.

  10. dumb ox says:

    Look closely at the association between “pursuit of happiness” and moral virtue in the writings of those like John Locke and other philosophers of the enlightenment. I think central to this is Kant’s “summum bonum” – highest good: pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of the highest good. Where there is no pursuit of happiness, there is no moral virtue. Particularly in its oppression of religious freedoms, the colonial rule which lead to Jefferson penning the Declaration of Independence would have been considered an impediment to the “highest good”.

  11. I have an entirely different view of rights. Rights are whatever freedoms you can claw away from power. God gave us no rights, at least here on earth. Every right we have had to be taken by force from people who did not want to give up power, whether that be government, big corporations or simply those few people who control most of the wealth.

    So, no, there is no right to happiness for a Christian. If you walk the way of Jesus you will most likely suffer because that walk is inherently counter-cultural. Being a liberal Christian in a very conservative state where my views get me lumped with Satan and his socialist partner Obama is a daily cross I bear and trust me, it doesn’t lead to happiness.

  12. Brother Bartimaeus says:

    The basic model for government is that Security = Freedom = Happiness.  If the goverment provides us security, then we have freedom to pursue other efforts, which leads to happiness.  Unfortunately our American kingdom can’t provide true security (no government can), as the only real security can be found in God’s kingdom.
     
    So we are called to become citizens in God’s kingdom, not just the one in Heaven, but the one on Earth.  Being a citizen of God’s kingdom means putting our trust and our lives in God’s hands, in accepting the security he provides.  With this security, it provides us the freedom to pursue His efforts, as nothing else matters.  It means taking up the cross and becoming a servant to all, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  It means serving all, but it also means being served and cared for by your brothers and sisters; and if everyone caring for each other isn’t happiness, then I don’t know what is.
     
    Yet we are called to live in the kingdom within this imperfect world, but the world of today is far closer to the kingdom than it was in the 1st Century.  For that I thank the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I do realize that for some it still may lead to “shuffling down the hall toward the execution room”, but that isn’t the focus of Jesus’ call and that’s not His end-game.  His end-game is that we abide in His love, and that His joy remain in us and our joy be full.

  13. Patrick says:

    Christians have more of a right to happiness than the unconverted do. We know that when we die we will no longer sin or suffer and be with our Savior.

    As far as your comment on war. Christ did not tell the Centurion to quit his job. Paul told Soldiers to be happy with their pay and to work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Thus a Soldier should do his/her duty to the best of their ability, which includes the taking of life. And, in line with the question of this post, the Christian Soldier must be happy with the situation, while avoiding the sins of vengence and murder. The Bible is very clear that the power of the sword is given by God to government in order to provide justice. The sword is meant for only one thing. Christ is not a pacificist.

    • Brother Bartimaeus says:

      Really? “Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” I think Jesus calls everyone to drop their worldly duties (soldiers included) and follow him. Paul may have said “yes you can remain a soldier” but let’s remember that soldiers were police officers too. One can keep the peace and still be a soldier. As for the sword being used only for justice, we can agree. Only in this case Jesus’ sword is his word and not a physical sword (check Revelation).

      Peace

      • The attitude of many, though not all, early Christians (read: Pre-Constantine) falls more in line with what Bartimaues has posted.

    • strongly object !!! but not willing to argue — take us off topic.

      • Jeff Dunn says:

        Thank you. Let’s not get off the topic, which is: How do we die to self, specifically (in this case) regarding our right to pursue happiness?

        I did ask Joe if we, as those marching toward death, should purposely pursue things that make us unhappy. His answer: “Only those raised in the sickness of the church would think that.”

        Good answer.

        • True Jeff. Thanks for reminding me about that aspect of our conversation. The two things I was afraid of in exploring this was the error of leading people to think that Christ preached suffering for suffering’s sake. PURSUE HAPPINESS. But seek the happiness rooted in the “deep magic” of the resurrection, which only exists on the other side of death and is eternal in nature.

          The second thing I was afraid of was that in exploring natural rights we would quickly get off into Christ’s pacifism. Definitely a worthy and difficult topic, but this post is nowhere near sufficient to support such a discussion. Thx.

  14. when I think about Jesus taking up the cross, I think about the perfect entering the imperfect.
    Jesus, the Son of God, was perfect & our imperfect world did not know how to handle him, the only thing they could do with him was kill him. We are called to take up our cross in this imperfect world. When we follow Jesus & act like him (trying to be more perfect) we will be asked to carry a cross by this imperfect world. Those coming from places that are more imperfect than ours (3rd world countries, Theocracies, Dictatorships) will often to be asked to carry heavier crosses. Living in Western democracies we have to focus on the fact that our world is still imperfect & we need Jesus in our lives. If we are not careful our “right” to happiness can lead us from the cross that we need to carry to be made perfect in Christ & take us to ultimate of imperfect states(hell). Great Post!
    peace

  15. Denise Neary says:

    when you “get saved”, whether or not you know it at the time, you are ultimately relinquishing ALL HUMAN RIGHTS back to the One who created you. when you commit your life to Christ you are under His authority, you have no “rights”. we should all be burning in hell. we have been pardoned by nothing but GRACE, our mere existence is not a right. rights are something secular people made up.

  16. Denise Neary says:

    my husband reminded me that its not just secular people who make up rights. Either way, the only people who truly have rights are those who are going to hell and have chosen human, earthly rights over the FREE GIFT of eternal salvation. as for followers of christ, every pursuit of happiness we embark on and possibly succeed in achieving is not a right, it is because of God’s grace that we experience anything pleasurable or desirable here on earth

  17. My knee-jerk is the following:

    “Neither seek nor shun the fight.” ~Proverb from a book

    “My life is his to waste.” ~ Said by a lead character in a book

    “If by my life or my death, I will protect you.” (Paraphrased the end)

    “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”

    If we’re here, we’re here for a reason.

    If we go home, we get to go home.

  18. God is not really concerned with our happiness. He wants maturity and will do whatever it takes to make us like His Son.

    • I wouldn’t say that God is not concerned with our happiness. I believe that he is both concerned and eager to be involved with every aspect of our lives. And, by and large, I think He prefers to see His children happy, content, and joyous — as long as these things are flowing from a relationship with Him. But you are right in that He desires for us to grow in His likeness, and I suspect that such growth is much higher on His priority list for our lives than our momentary happiness. And, sure, growth in Christ often requires a little rain on our self-seeking parades, but, even in the rough spots of life, I think He is seeking our ultimate well-being and to instill something that is a lot deeper and infinitely more durable than mere happiness.

    • Matthew, I think God is concerned with our happiness.

      Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matt7:9-11)

      And if He wants us to become like His Son, great. His Son was happy. Great sense of humor, well-rounded, enjoyed friendship, good food and fine wine.

      And the fruit of the Spirt includes joy.

      Why do we need an either/or dichotomy?

      Note, however: I am NOT into the health-wealth gospel… We can probably agree on that.

  19. Christians who pursue happiness more than God’s glory and the benefit of their neighbor have not really gone on the boat yet.

  20. dumb ox says:

    The word used in the Beattitutes from the Sermon on Mount is “makarioi” (makarios), which can mean either “blessed” or “happy”. It referred to the state of being of the greek gods, referring to a higher call or plane of being. I think the founding fathers’ understanding of “happiness” is much closer to this meaning that we are, with our very recent bending of the word “happiness” into being equated with hedonism. Happiness as the pursuit of the greatest good (summum bonum), rather than the lower, base instincts, is a noble pursuit. The notion that Christians should not pursue happiness or that God’s will and the pursuit of happiness are antithetical is a dangerous argument. Christianity becomes contrary to human existence.

    This is the problem with “redeeming the culture”: we tend to surrender meaning of words in order to become relevant, but in the process we become obsurd. But the pragmatism enslaving evangelicalism makes it practically impossible for Christians to understand any meaning of happiness beyond “what will make me feel good?”. We have no philosophical roots to even grasp that there may actually be a meaning to life beyond merely surrendering to hedonism or being crushed under the wheels of dehumanizing legalism, mindless authoritariansm, and impersonal determinism.

  21. Brendan says:

    Article was decent and well written

    The comments were mostly strange and erroneous…mostly