Life, Liberty, Happiness and Justice

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton



Listening to the radio last night, I heard a commentator use a phrase that stuck with me all evening. The phrase was "the benefit of humanity."

As I drove last night I asked myself the question, "What ARE the benefits of being human?" What first came to mind were these words: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

That phrase, as you may know, is in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In Thomas Jefferson's rough draft for the declaration, it reads, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men (people) are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

I sat in my car last night and gave God thanks for the benefit of life. It is a precious, daily gift to be alive. I recognized the benefit of liberty, or freedom. I made the choice to travel. I had freedom to stop when I wanted and follow the direction I had chosen. And I celebrated tonight the benefit of pursuing happiness. There is so much sadness and pain in the world. How good it is to have the possibility of happiness.

But this week, and last night, there were events taking place that deprived people of "the benefit of humanity." Life has been taken and denied. Liberty, or freedom, has been threatened by fear and anxiety. The pursuit of happiness has become delayed if not impacted forever in the lives of those killed and the families and friends who are swirling in disbelief.

The racism, the violence, the fear, the hatred, the discord must be addressed. In a church that seems possessed by what separates us, the rhetoric must be re-focused on what we can and should be doing together. This is not a time for disunity. It is a time when we can and should join our hearts, hands, and voices in a common theme of justice, reconciliation, and peace.

If you are preaching this weekend, be pastoral and prophetic. If you are worshipping this weekend, be prayerful and courageous. If you doing neither, create within yourself a deep appreciation for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and work tirelessly that these senseless, reactionary, and violent behaviors might not threaten anyone, everyone for that matter, who deserves the same.

These truths should be, must be, sacred and undeniable. The benefit of being human is to have life, freedom, and the ability to actively pursue all that is good.

How is that possible? I'll say it again: "Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly with our God."

May it be so.


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