Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness
Is it a self-evident truth that these are unalienable rights for all people? A reflection on national holidays.
On July 1st, 2017 Canada celebrated 150 years as a country. On July 4th, the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day. Many countries have a day dedicated to celebrating whatever it is that constitutes their nation.
In the Declaration of Independence, that famed document written by the founding fathers of America, it’s written:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This ideology is foundational in American principles and governance. But do all people enjoy those unalienable rights? Is it a self-evident truth that all men are created equal? What really constitutes life, liberty, and happiness?
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.
Isn’t life more than mere existence?
In Ephesians 2 Paul makes it clear that a life in which sin is alive and kicking, is not life at all: it’s death. Spiritual death; separation from God. But when we stop giving in to the temptationand stop living according to our lusts, then we are made truly alive! Alive to all the possibilities of life. We stop merely existing and start growing in the virtues of Christ. Our lives become gardens of rich fruits, which become a part of our nature. Growth and new life are constant, and the life that grows there is eternal.
What is true liberty? For those of who live in countries where freedom is valued, we have much to be thankful for. We are allowed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. At least in theory.
True liberty is found in Christ.
“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
What does the Son make us free from? The bondage of living according to our lusts. As people we are bound to sin; we don’t have the strength to overcome it. “…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” Jesus said. (John 8:34)
But Jesus came with a new way of living, in which we can overcome when we are tempted! “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free!” (v.32) We get to know the truth when we see the sin that is in our nature, and we judge it, hate it, and put it to death. In other words, when we are tempted, we acknowledge our lusts, our weakness, that we want to live for ourselves, and we hate it, and we pray to God for power to resist it, which He gives us through the Holy Spirit. Then we are no longer in the power of sin and death, and we are free to live a life of perfect liberty in Christ. To not be bound to giving in to our lusts is as free as a person can be.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17.
It’s written about Jesus that “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness, more than your companions.” Hebrews 1:9. It is lawlessness, doing our own will, letting our lusts guide our decisions, which causes unhappiness, regret, and misery for ourselves, and for those who are affected by our actions.
On a personal level, if I can’t overcome unthankfulness, for example, it makes me miserable, and I have a bitter, complaining spirit that permeates my life. But what if instead I, in the power of the Holy Spirit, were to overcome unthankfulness and learn to be thankful for all God does for me, whether it’s sunshine or rain? The result would truly be that I experience the oil of gladness for myself!
The pursuit of happiness could more accurately be summed up as the pursuit of righteousness. It’s written right there, you can’t argue with God’s Word.
Heaven on earth
If all people would set out to fulfill these truths straight from the Word of God, then each one would look out for the interests of the others, instead of just their own, and so many of the wrongs of this world would be righted. Then it would truly be heaven on earth.
Someday the kingdom of God will be the kingdom of earth and everything will be put right. Until that day comes you can personally champion truth and righteousness by living according to God’s laws yourself, and in so doing hasten the day of His coming. (2 Peter 3:12)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.