…..to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 NLT

Do you ever look at a verse and see it differently?  That happened to me this week. I came across John 1:12 in a prayer and it just stopped me.  Let me tell you why.

If you are American, then you have grown up with the sense that you have certain rights. The Declaration of Independence mentions ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as creator-endowed rights. At the time of our struggle against England, mentioning the creator added weight to America’s claim that no man-made government could deprive people of these gifts.

I grew up with a sense of pride regarding our country’s founding and I do thank God for all his goodness to America. But when I came across John’s mention of our ‘right to become children of God, I started to think of rights differently.  I asked myself, “Is it true that He has given all people the ‘right’ to life, freedom and lifestyle/work choices? What rights, if any, do we have from God?”

This musing over rights strikes me as ironic against the backdrop of the ongoing pro-vs- anti vaccine debates. Everyone points to their rights to do what they want with their own bodies.

John singles out a certain group of people who receive a right, those who trust Jesus. It is they who are welcomed into God’s family.

Seeing this ‘right’ in a new light, I wondered if the Bible describes other rights. I looked up the Greek word John used, ‘exousia’. This term can mean power, but it also includes the ideas of privilege and authority. Rights are a privilege that apparently come with ability to exercise them.

Looking back at the verse, I noticed something else, that this right is a gift. If something is a gift, then we, the recipients, have no ground for saying we are OWED it. In fact, God is not obligated to grant us this blessing or anything good.

Maybe a more important question to pose, rather than ‘what are my God-given rights’ is, ‘what rights does God have’? Do we, his created ones, owe him something?

That’s easy. As our creator, he owns us. He alone has the right to use us as he sees fit. He holds author’s rights. What do they involve?  Per Wikipedia, the rights of the one who creates something include property, that is economic, rights as well as moral rights.

Just thinking about God’s property and moral rights makes me want to shut my mouth about ANY rights.  You and I are simply grace-receivers.  I need help in shifting my perspective from that of a gal who assumes I have rights to that of humble child, grateful to receive as gift this right of being welcomed into the Father’s family.  I want to live with a mindset of stunned happy astonishment for having been included. It IS a privilege.

What follows next then is to ponder the responsibilities that come with family membership!