The religion that makes pursuit of happiness it’s core tenet is not Christianity. It is Hedonism.
Some guy (formerly) called Bruce; a friend whose spouse moved on; a neighbour who wanted to get rid of an unwanted pregancy; a young woman who wanted to die; and a lad who ‘came out’: sexual identity, divorce, abortion, and euthanasia are some of the hot button issues that are frequently flaring up in social interaction these days.
More often than not, debates on these issues happen at the intersection of science, philosophy and theology. suffice to say, there is hardly any resolution in sight, seeing as the premises upon which these world views are built are often diametrically opposed.
For the Christian however, or anyone seeking a better grasp of the Christian world view, there is useful and adequate explanation for how God views these issues in the scripture, and in particular the teachings of Jesus Christ who is the archetype; the mould in which Christians are formed.
A False Gospel of Rights
While Christianity is not opposed to the idea of human rights, it is important to make the critical distinction that Christianity is more about human sacrifice than it is about rights. Sacrifice, not only in the limited sense that Christ gave his life as ransom for ours, but also in the expanded sense of our being called to similarly give our lives, figuratively, and if necessary, literally as a ransom for others.
The false gospel of rights is one in which God exists merely to pander to our every human desire. The universal measure of virtue in this corrupt version of the gospel says people must be free to do “whatever makes them happy” as long as it harms no one. Nothing can be further from what Jesus lived and taught.
In fact, Jesus lived out the idea that we must find our happiness in what pleases God.
Matthew 26:36-39 GNT
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went a little farther on, threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”
It is important to make clear that Jesus wasn’t compelled to go to the cross. Rather he was convinced that it was a sacrifice worth making. As he said…
John 10:18 GNT
No one takes my life away from me. I give it up of my own free will. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it back. This is what my Father has commanded me to do.”
Now, at first reading, there is a seeming contradiction in Jesus’ statement, for, how can one speak in the same breathe of free will and commandment? In fact there is no contradiction of any sort because, the very proof of free will is that we are able to refuse a command which is why he says, “I give it up of my own free will.”
Therefore, Jesus establishes here for us a critical precept that we are quite able to express our will by surrendering our rights to pursue our own happiness. Importantly, he does not merely illustrate this precept by his own conduct, but he actually mandates it as the way to live if we want to be true Christians.
Matthew 16:24-25 GNT
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.
In essence, being a Christian is about denying oneself what may be considered the most fundamentally inalienable human right. For what does it mean to take up one’s cross, if it is not to embrace the symbol of sacrificial death?
Building upon this Premise
Having thus established that Christianity is not the hedonistic pursuit of one’s happiness, it is yet necessary to relate this to why for instance a believer shouldn’t get a divorce if differences become “irreconcilable”.
If you dig beneath all the science and philosophy of why people want to get a divorce, live out their homosexual inclinations, get an abortion, or just die, you will find just that one slender alphabet; ‘I’. Now this is an adequate reason for anyone who is not necessarily trying to live their lives to please God, but for those who are, it is simply not enough to say, “that’s what I want”.
Apostle Paul having understood the futility of living for ‘I’, wrote…
Galatians 2:20a GNT
so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
“Are we called to suffer then?” some might wonder. The simple answer is, if need be. If it is necessary to suffer in order to live in accordance with the original intentions of God, then the believer must embrace such suffering.
Matthew 18:8 GNT
“If your hand or your foot makes you lose your faith, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life without a hand or a foot than to keep both hands and both feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.
Matthew 19:12 GNT
For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.”
Jesus emphasizes the extreme importance of going to the greatest lengths to preserve our relationship with God. You are better off without a hand he says than offending God because of your hand. To the man who wishes full expression of his sexuality contrary to the will of God, Jesus says, some for the sake of the Kingdom refuse to marry.
Over and over again, Jesus teaches that we must choose to please God above ourselves. You can’t simply get a divorce because you are unhappy in your marriage, God says…
Malachi 2:16 GNTa
“I hate divorce,” …
You are not forsaken
To the man struggling with sexual identity; the woman with an unwanted pregnancy; the man in a broken marriage; and the young girl with a terminal illness, God’s standards may seem stringent and his love may feel cruel. Like Jesus on the cross, people in such terrible situations may want to cry…
Matthew 27:46b GNT
… “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
We must however trust his words that say…
Matthew 10:29-31 GNT
For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!
1 Corinthians 10:13 GNT
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
The Error of Political Correctness
The believer must be wary of the temptation to devise his own means for saving the world. Jesus is the way, and he says anyone who seeks to go on that way must deny himself (of his own desires that are contrary to God’s will) and take up his cross and follow.
It is a terrible error to invoke Jesus to justify the sinful ways that man chooses. Indeed while Jesus did not allow the bloodthirsty and hypocritical crowd to stone the woman caught in adultery to death, let us not give the sacrilegious impression that he asked her to “Go and do whatever makes you happy”