A little diversion from Acts today, as I’m still thinking about justice. Some cross-reference searching brought me here:
I’d highlighted it in my Bible before, but hadn’t really noticed the emphasis on rights. I don’t tend to think of ‘human rights’ as a particularly biblical concept – we don’t have rights, other than the right, won by Jesus’ blood, to be called sons and daughters of God. Everything we have is a gift, lavished on us by the grace of God. We are beneficiaries of unmerited, undeserved favour, not subjects with inalienable rights that we can demand, or even expect.
Yet it seems I’m wrong: the poor and destitute at least have rights.
I suppose these are the rights they were granted under the Mosaic Law – I think I’d always read those as obligations of people in power, rather than rights of people in need.
I know, you’re asking yourself now ‘how are those two things not inseparable?’ – and I’m sort of asking myself the same, now.
Maybe it’s because I think of people ‘demanding their rights’ as being just that – demanding. It sounds grasping and selfish (not least because it has got so twisted in recent years with people demanding rights that actually restrict the freedoms of others, and because the emphasis seems to be on pandering to the most strident cries rather than fostering Ann attitude of carrying for one another and seeking each other’s best, each other’s flourishing).
So this is really a pondering – is there a difference between the command to ‘defend the poor and the needy’ and the command to ‘defend the rights of the poor and the needy’? Does the latter, perhaps put the poor and needy in a stronger position in our eyes? Maybe it takes us away from seeing ourselves as laudable benefactors and creates a greater sense of equality between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
What do you think?