I have to admit that I love School House Rock. It reminds me of when I was growing up and the quality cartoons I got to watch after school or on Saturday mornings. Admittedly I’m a little biased about the cartoons that I grew up with, and School House Rock was a big part of them. There’s a line in the video from above that always sticks out for me, and thats that we have the right for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Oh yeah, and right before that line they say that “We’re Free!” I know that most of the time when we hear these things that we’re thinking of them in terms of being a part of a nation that grants us these rights. At least those of us who grew up in the U.S. are probably thinking that. This is something that we’ve been taught since we were little. This is part of the American Dream!
But where does this right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come from? It doesn’t come from a country or a government…does it? The Declaration of Independence tells us that these rights come from our creator, which shouldn’t be a big surprise. God is the only one who can grant these rights, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about it? What first comes to my mind is that I can live out a life that I want to live without having to worry about someone else interfering in it. This was the concern of the founding fathers. They lived in a world where restrictions were placed on them by others who were thousands of miles away, and it made them angry to be controlled by people outside of their world. But is this the life that we aspire to as Christians? Is this the new life that we have through Jesus Christ? As Christian people, is this our right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I would argue that its not, because the new life that we have through Christ is so much more.
Read Romans 5:12-6:14
Prior to this passage in Romans, Paul has described the effects of sin. For Paul, sin leads to death even after one incident. This may seem like a pretty harsh punishment, and it is, but stop and think for a second. Everyone dies eventually. Paul doesn’t tell us that our death is immediate because of our transgression. So it would seem that the consequences of sin are minor, but this isn’t the point that Paul is trying to make. This is one of the reasons why it is hard for us to convince other people of the need for new life, because the ultimate consequence is so far off.
So what does this mean for us? Paul notes that sin takes control of us and it begins to guide our lives. We know this is true. Have you ever done something wrong that lead you to making more wrong decisions? Have you ever been in that downward spiral? This is the effect of sin that Paul is getting at. Sin, when it rules our lives takes away our freedom and ability to live out the life that we want to live.
Having a new life in Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection changes this. He is the one who can pull us out of the downward spiral. Having a new life in Christ is not as limiting as some might think. We live in a world that God has created. This isn’t a little world, or a small creation. This world that’s been created has a place for us in it. This isn’t just any place either, its a wide open place that gives us the freedom and the ability to live out a life with purpose and happiness. This isn’t a life that is limited by sin because we are no longer in a world that is dominated by it.
Just so I don’t sound like I’m preaching the prosperity Gospel, this new life doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy and we won’t have any problems. God never promises us that. Rather, now we have hope, so that even when the worst happens we can look towards hope and a world that is not dominated by past sins and mistakes, but one where all of creation is open before us. This is a world where we are not destined for one path because of what we’ve done in the past. This is the real right that we have for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness. Everything else is just a pale imitation.
Let me look to you and your creation for the life that I long for
Help me to live a life that is full of your grace and not dominated by sin and death
Guide my heart, my hands, and my mind to live a life that is full of your creation
In Christ’s name, Amen