When church people hear of human rights, it seems to most that human rights are part of the evil world today which must be avoided. But as I learn more about Jesus, I see he had the interests of all people at heart.
He did not discriminate against anyone. He interacted with the young and old, poor and rich, believers and not, men and women, the wise and the uneducated.
He did not condemn the wrong doers but accepted them and provided direction. He encouraged and provided hope where there was no hope. He valued the dignity of all.
He defended the poor, the weak, healed many and corrected their beliefs. He ate with sinners. He was misunderstood but did not fight back. He sacrificed lots for others to the extent of dying for the world for its sins.
I was thinking if Jesus walked the world today, many human rights activists would not tolerate him as they would not match His standards.
I strongly believe the human rights are of God and those who claim to be His followers need to examine carefully how they defend dignity of men and women as they glorify God.
Jesus was the best human rights activist, so should his followers be. As someone has said, the best human right is to be loved. Jesus loved and his followers did too.
For followers of Jesus, Human Rights [promoting, assuring and protecting] must be central to us as we follow Jesus’ example. Here are some random thoughts collected over the years:
As people of faith we must stand with the oppressed peoples around the world.
Human rights are fundamental rights to which a person is entitled simply because she or he is a human being.
The United Nations declaration on Human Rights includes that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms, "without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
It goes on to say, "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
I believe this is a strong statement and a worthy goal for the global family, but my foundation for human rights is rooted in something deeper.
I find it in the activity of God, the giver of all life. We are all brothers and sisters by creation, and we are bound together by our common humanity. Jesus urges, "do to others as you would have them do to you".
Jesus' words make it clear that the standard for how we treat each other is not based on whether we deserve it, like each other or trust each other. There is a deeper, more significant foundation.
In a world where fear and greed are the greatest motivators, Followers must be advocates of a different approach. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and personal safety because each person is a child of God.
A Jesus follower can’t accept slavery, torture, cruel treatment or discrimination because these are incompatible with who Jesus is.
Yet for us, human rights go well beyond the obvious injustices. We must lift the fallen, feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the prisoners, speak for the voiceless and love our enemies.
We can’t be silent in the face of injustice and inhumanity. We cannot allow our greed, or our desire for cheap sneakers, to be an excuse for the oppression of people elsewhere.
More and more of our own population lives below the poverty level, and many people go hungry in Canada, one of the wealthiest nation in the world.
In our justice system, the wealthy and privileged guilty are often better off than the poor and marginalized innocent.
Human trafficking and slavery are a reality in our country as they are everywhere.
We cannot speak with authority to the world about human rights until we take a serious look at ourselves.
What Does This Look Like?
On a larger scale, followers must become more involved in the solution to genocide around the world.
We need to stop denying the rights of those who disagree with us. Could you imagine Jesus ever doing that?
We need to make a stand for all Canadians to have equal and affordable access to the essentials of life such as clean water, nutritious food and adequate housing. Think we are already there? Go north young man, go north.
We need to stop refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding or refuse to give them a marriage license. We scream that we are being denied our rights as Christians while we deny their rights as children of God. Yes, I said that. And we look stupid.
Then we parade that person all over Christian media as a hero of the faith. I cringe, Jesus weeps and Father’s reputation takes a colossal hit. Again.
It means that, as we defend our rights to worship freely, we extend and protect that same right for people of other faiths.
We get involved in relieving the suffering of those victimized by racism and prejudice. Both here and around the world.
It’s no use to feel bad about these issues if we are not prepared to get involved and do something. Advocating for human rights should not simply be an academic argument. It’s about doing something out of love as we model Jesus.
Jesus called for a radical change to human values and relationships. We like to talk about "our" rights, but as Jesus followers it’s more about standing for the rights of the oppressed and the vulnerable. When will we stand up and say injustice is wrong? When will the people of God stand up for the basic human rights of "every person" around the world? Then do something.
Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
I Have a Dream Today
'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.'
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.