Civil rights loosely defined are the rights of all people, or, as one dictionary puts it, the rights that every person should have regardless of gender, race, religion, or national origin. So, what are these rights, and why are they important?
In my study of Christian Science I have learned that the Bible tells us that we are each made in the image and likeness of God, that He gave us dominion over the earth, and that all that God made is “very good” (see Genesis 1:25, 26, 31). The Bible teaches that we have a right to know God, our creator. We realize this right by loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and loving our neighbor as ourself.
Consider the biblical story of the five sisters Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Hebrew law stated that women could not inherit property. The sisters protested to Moses: “Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.” Moses brought the matter to God, who exclaimed, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren” (Numbers 27:4, 7).
Perhaps the sisters understood something of their inalienable rights as children of God. They should receive the same property rights as men because they, too, were created in the image and likeness of God. Divine law, as the Bible repeatedly notes, supersedes human law.
How about Cornelius, a religious, God-fearing Gentile? It was well known that a Jew was forbidden to "associate with, or even visit, a man of another nation” (Acts 10:28, J.B. Phillips). Cornelius had a vision while praying that he should contact Peter, Jesus’ disciple. Peter also had a vision while praying that he must not call common “what God has cleansed” (Acts 10:15).
Peter then said to Cornelius, “God has shown me plainly that no man must be called ‘common’ or ‘unclean.’ ” After Cornelius explained to Peter why he called for him, Peter said, “In solemn truth I can see now that God does not discriminate between people, but that in every nation the man who reverences him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34, 35).
What a profound lesson! God, divine Love, is not a respecter of persons – of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, class. He is our Father-Mother God, who bestows His blessings on all.
Knowing the rights of all people – the right to the blessings of the kingdom of heaven and to reflect all the attributes of God (love, strength, health, mercy, justice, joy, eloquence, intelligence, and freedom) – is to know who you are as God’s child. It makes you a better man or woman. It enables you to bless, to heal, to make a better world.
“God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” She continued, “These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of ‘on earth peace, good-will toward men’ ” (p. 226).