Recently I was in Northern Mozambique on a mission trip. Whilst I was there, as well as the months of culture shock I experienced upon my return to Melbourne, I realised that much of the worldview that I had be culturally brought up with wasn’t very holy. When I am processing situations and emotions, some of what I think is godly, but the rest of my response is similar to that of the cultural norm.
After binge watching an entire season of Degrassi whilst recovering from a bad cold, I had a deep desire to re-evaluate my worldview. I thought that perhaps through writing down what I believed about certain things i.e. suffering, death, meaning, individualism, church, etc. I will be able to discover what parts of my view on these topics are truthful and biblical, and which parts are lies I have believed.
Whilst in Mozambique, I learned that it is okay to be wrong. It is okay to advocate for something and then a month later admit that you were wrong. It is not shameful, but in fact an admission of our humanity; it is humble and godly to admit these things. This is the standpoint from where I begin the project of re-evaluating my worldview. If my re-evaluation is wrong, that is okay.
Let us begin.
Relational Rights. (Worldview Evaluation #1)
The concept of rights seems to underpin a lot of Western thought and responses to world crises. It effects how people relate to one another, whether they assert their individual rights, or whether they submit to another. In God’s eyes, are we entitled to anything? I think our sense of entitlement is one of the root causes of tensions and arguments between people. Ephesians 5.21 instructs us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. In a relational situation, if we assert our ‘rights’ instead of submitting to another person, does this show a lack of reverence for Christ? Perhaps submission should be our default response to all situations and people. If this is our default and a situations occurs whereby God does not desire us to submit, for example a situation of abuse, then God will instruct us on how to respond in a godly way. Sometimes I fear that if I do not assert our rights up front that they will be trampled on; I think many other people feel the same way.
I think of Jesus’ life after Joseph, his earthly father, died. If this happened in our culture today, some would say that Mary should have stepped up, that Jesus had a right to look after his own interests instead of his family, that he has a ‘right’ to live his life in whatever way he desired, he has the ‘right’ to pursue whatever trade he wanted instead of taking over the family carpentry business. But the fact of the matter is that God asked him to submit, for the first 30 years of his life, to serving his earthly family, providing for them. Both Jesus and his Father’s concern was not what Jesus was missing out on, but on loving his family.
My fiancé and I are currently planning our wedding. My family wants to be a part of the planning process. I am often told by people, “It’s your wedding, do whatever you want.” I think that mindset isn’t loving towards my family and other people who want to wedding to go a certain way. To assert my ‘right’ to have the wedding how I want it to be and be unwilling to compromise with others isn’t loving. It isn’t a godly mindset to have. It is important not to link passivity with godliness too closely, as I have done in the past. One can be submit to others in a loving way without always being passive.
Often we try to protect our own rights out of either selfishness or fear. We fear that God will not protect us. We selfishly want our life to go the way we want it to, full of happiness, and as such, we try to protect the self-interests we have for our life.
Today, people will often say, you have a right to be happy. I disagree. I think that even though God delights in our joy and often arranges circumstance so that we have great joy, we don’t have a ‘right’ to worldly happiness. I wouldn’t say that I align with the school of thought that says, “it doesn’t matter what terrible things happen in this world, just focus on heaven.” That doesn’t summarise my thinking at all. However, I do think, come what may, whether it is suffering or joy, take it in your stride. Journey through it with God.
I think the idea that we have a right to happiness is the overarching theme of all the other ‘rights’ we have created. We want to be happy and not suffer, and the way people often think to ensure this is protect ourselves from all things that may restrict our happiness. We have created a vast list of rights, the keeping of which maximises our chance of personal happiness. What happens however, if one of our rights conflicts with someone else’s. If the exercising of your supposed rights causes someone pain and is selfish at it’s very core, it is sinful. There is no two ways about it; you have not submitted to another person, and there was no reverence for God in your actions.
Relationally, sometimes we believe we have the right to have those around us act in ways that please us. I know I have tried to organise people, borderline manipulate people, and ignore people in a selfish attempt to protect my ‘rights’. This is wrong. We can sometimes believe we have the right for our friend to arrive on time when meeting with them. We can sometimes believe that we have the right to only care for those who care for us back. We can sometimes believe we have the right to be treated kindly if we treat others kindly. We can sometimes believe we have the right to tell others to stop doing things when they irritate us. We do not have a right to any of this. We do not have the right to impose ourselves on others so that they act in ways that please us. We don’t have the right to control other people. When we try to control others we put ourselves on a pedestal, assuming that our way is the right way. This is prideful and sinful.
God is sovereign and in complete control. When our ‘rights’ get trampled on; when someone punches you, don’t punch back, submit and offer your other cheek. When someone steals from you, offer for them to take something else also. Submission in this way isn’t passive. It’s shockingly sassy in a way that isn’t rude, but loving. It is a grand example of the Kingdom of God. We don’t need to assert our right to freedom. We are free in Christ, we need not worry about trying to protect our rights and freedoms. God will protect whatever freedoms he wants us to have, at whatever time he wants us to have them. If we go through a trial whereby our freedom is restricted, it isn’t because God is cruel, He allows it to happen because He has a plan to bring good, to show us more of him, and to mature us.
Advocating for rights such as pay equality, non-discrimination, and anti-slavery are great, and I am not at all saying that God wants us to stop fighting for justice – He doesn’t. But let’s ensure that our fight for justice is based on the love that is in the Kingdom of God.
This is the first in a series of posts where I reconsider what I believe about different topics in an endeavour to work out which aspects of my worldview are godly and which need to change to become so.