Are you ready for a history lesson? Alrighty here we go. Stick with me. I promise, I’ve got a point coming!
Heroes or Criminals?
On July 4, 1776––two hundred thirty-eight years ago today––56 colonial men signed a document challenging Great Britain’s rule over the thirteen colonies. The Declaration of Independence declared these “United Colonies” to be free, independent states. But the war had not yet been won. In fact, it had just begun. Touted as heroes by many colonials, yet deemed criminals by the British crown, the signers “pledge[d] to each other [their] Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor,” confidently assured of “the Protection of Divine Providence” (Declaration of Independence). Yet, with the signing of this document, each of them effectively signed their own death warrants as they opposed the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. And for what? Freedom. As we all know, freedom was won. In 1783––despite unfavorable odds––the colonies won their freedom.
Our Founding Fathers
Then came the Constitutional Convention. Of the 55 delegates of the Convention, 49 were Protestants and 2 were Catholic, which means there were only 4 men who did not profess faith in Jesus. Fascinating, isn’t it? Being a history major in college and a prior history teacher, I knew our country was founded upon Christian principles. But I never knew just how many of our founding fathers claimed to know Jesus. Now, I’ll spare you the rest of the history lesson, but here’s the point I’d like to make: Our Founding Fathers risked their lives for freedom. And once they were set free, they inscribed God’s truths into the foundation of our country. Our country’s foundation has Jesus written all over it. If you take a moment to read some early writings of our Founding Fathers, you’ll find many––if not most of them––believed God’s providential hand was guiding them throughout the creation of the United States, and I believe they were right. I believe they were called to declare, fight, and win our freedom. So, let’s not waste it!
What do we do with freedom?
Scripture says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Now, of course this verse refers specifically to the freedom we’re called to in Christ––let’s not take it out of context––but I do believe this verse can apply to the freedom we have as American citizens as well. Scripture again points to the topic of freedom in 1 Peter 2:16. It tells us to “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” All who are in Christ are free, but living in America provides us with an opportunity to allow our freedom to flourish. As American Christians, we are free both spiritually and politically to love others and serve God. Now, I know I’m stating the obvious, but this is not the case throughout the world. According to Christianity Today, “An average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year.” Christians are persecuted and martyred every day because of their faith. But we live in a country that allows freedom of religion––a freedom many of us take for granted when one we ought to be immensely thankful. So, what do we do with freedom? There are many who believe faith should be a private matter. I disagree. I believe we’re called to share our faith with others that they might come to experience the grace and joy found in Jesus. I believe God led our Founding Fathers to fight for our freedom that His people might proclaim His name throughout the world. Jesus tells us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). With today’s technological advancements, we’re experiencing an unprecedented opportunity to minister to others. We live in a time like no other. And I believe it’s time to use our freedom to free others. I believe this is the purpose of our freedom. To love others. To serve them. And to serve God through intentionally living out the Great Commission. So today, as you celebrate this fine holiday, be sure to ask yourself this very important, potentially life-altering question: How might God be calling you to use your freedom?
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
Happy Forth of July!
Any thoughts? Share in the comments.
An older version of this post was originally published on July 4, 2013