The Bible’s View
What Will a Christian Do When Deprived of His Rights?
MANY today are clamoring for their rights. But, sadly, a large proportion of mankind do not enjoy many rights at all. Others are deprived in one way or another of what they consider their rights. As Christianity spreads, many of these persons come to be numbered among the true worshipers of Jehovah God. So how should a Christian react when deprived of his rights?
When Abused by a Criminal
A Christian may be deprived of his rights by a criminal. He may be robbed, beaten or cheated. What should he do? Of course, in most lands the first thing would be to inform the police. But suppose the crime situation is beyond the control of the police. Or perhaps they will not act without a bribe.
Take, for example, the situation of one Christian woman. Her husband was killed by a group of men for no known reason. She felt that she knew who had done it, but appeals to the highest authorities brought no results. How should a Christian act in such circumstances?
The apostle Paul gave fine counsel for this situation: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Rom. 12:17-19) While we would hope that the police would handle such a matter, we know that in this life we will never receive complete justice. Hence, as Paul said, a Christian will not vengefully take the matter into his own hands, but will leave it with Jehovah, trusting in him for a just outcome.
Again, perhaps we are living in one of those countries where there is a large gap between the rich and the poor. We see that our friends—or even we ourselves—are downtrodden and taken advantage of. We feel indignant. What should we do?
The Christian apostle Paul had this experience. Often he encountered a certain institution that badly needed reforming: slavery. Many slaves became Christians, and undoubtedly longed for freedom. Did Paul counsel violent revolt, or escape? No, he said: “You slaves, be obedient in everything to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eyeservice, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward.”—Col. 3:22-24; see also 1 Peter 2:18-20.
Naturally, if a Christian had the opportunity to get free from slavery, he would take it. But this was not to become such an obsession that it overshadowed his main purpose in life: serving Jehovah. As Paul said: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.”—1 Cor. 7:21-24.
While few today are actually slaves, some may feel that they are little better than that because of their economic situation. If there is some way to improve their situation, of course, that would be a fine thing to do. But this should not become an all-consuming passion. Remember Paul’s words: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires.”—1 Tim. 6:9.
Jesus Christ also came in contact with the problems caused by poverty. He said: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
Should Jesus and Paul have become involved in social issues and reforms, as some say? Well, some reformers did arise during the long history of the Roman Empire. Perhaps they accomplished some good. But usually their work was changed after they died, or it was swept away, at the latest, at the fall of the empire itself. Similarly, Jesus and Paul might have accomplished much in the way of reform. But it would undoubtedly have been destroyed, at the latest, when the Roman Empire finally collapsed. That is what happens when effort is put into reforming a system that is destined to pass away.
Instead of devoting himself to social reform, Jesus ‘bore witness to the truth.’ (John 18:37) As a result, many, both of that day and this, believed in him. Thus they gained the opportunity for everlasting life in a system where all their “rights” will be guaranteed. (John 3:16) How many social reformers will see such a lasting result from their hard work?
What About Persecution?
In many parts of the world, Christians are experiencing persecution and a denial of their right to worship and freely express themselves about religion. Some are tortured and even killed. How should they react to such abuses?
Once again, they follow Jesus’ example. Remember how he was subjected to illegal arrest and seizure in the Garden of Gethsemane, an irregular trial and sentencing, and deprival of due process in front of Pilate. Why did Jesus not call on his large following among the Jews to help him to escape this injustice? He himself explained: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:36.
So Jesus did not ask his followers to engage in armed revolt to protect his human rights. Christians today follow his example. Of course, if there is a legal way for them to protect their freedom of worship, they will take it. The apostle Paul appealed right up to Caesar himself, in an effort to ‘defend and legally establish the good news.’ (Acts 25:11; Phil. 1:7) But if there are no legal steps that can be taken, a Christian will remain faithful to his beliefs, trusting in Jehovah for an eventual good outcome. This was what Jesus did, and although this course led to death, consider the wonderful outcome, both for himself and for humankind.—Heb. 2:9, 14, 15.
Hence, a Christian who is deprived of his rights for any reason will understand that today, nobody fully enjoys what are called “human rights.” Really, everyone is in great need of the new order that God has promised, where righteousness will prevail and the “rights” of all will be observed. (2 Pet. 3:13) If we have to suffer some violation of our rights, we can find comfort in imitating this inspired viewpoint: “But as for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”—Mic. 7:7.