On July 4 we celebrate our Independence Day. The 4th of July commemorates the approval of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence by the 2nd Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Of course this bold step did not guarantee that those 13 original colonies would be given their independence from Great Britain. King George wasn’t about to relinquish control over his money-making colonies without a fight. I’ve never known of a king or politician who is willing to give up a source of taxes.
So those brave colonists had to fight for what they believed in, and miraculously they beat the superpower of that day, Great Britain. In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was a radical document, and still is to a large extent. First of all, it defied the king of a powerful nation, a very dangerous act that could have resulted in disaster. Secondly, this remarkable document contained principles that were unheard of in that day and age.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration is the foundational document for our Constitution, and it is based on biblical principles and the best of Enlightenment thinking. We should celebrate the freedoms which God has blessed this great nation of ours, realizing that our freedom truly is from God. In celebrating these freedoms, we must also remember we have responsibilities. We are not free to live excessive lives as we as a nation have been doing until the recent economic problems. We are not free so we can pursue selfish ends. Our independence should not make us irresponsible and self-serving, as the Apostle Paul so eloquently puts it in Galatians 5:13:
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence. NRSV
God, through the Apostle Peter, gives us guidelines for being good citizens (1 Peter 2:16-17, NCV):
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Live as servants of God. Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king.