(This post looks forward to Independence Day in the United States, on the 4th of July. It is an update of the original post that appeared July 2018.)
As Christians here in the United States, we have the opportunity to reflect on our birth and life as a nation. As Englishman G. K. Chesterton rightly said, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.”
Other nations were founded on the basis of common ancestry, geographic boundaries, or by the power of kings and emperors. But America is different. It was founded on a shared belief. Or as Chesterton said, on a creed.
And what is that creed that is distinctive? It is the eloquent, profound, and simple statement penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Christian influence in the birth of the United States is inescapable.
Early inhabitants of our country were Puritans, who emigrated from England to gain the freedom to worship God as they saw fit.
As our nation began to grow and form a united government among the original thirteen colonies, reliance on Scripture and the Christian faith was unconcealed. Here are just a few of the many quotes that are available to validate this observation:
- George Washington: “It is impossible rightly to govern the world without God and the Bible.”
- Thomas Jefferson: “The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty.”
- Benjamin Franklin: “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of men.’ And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
- Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.”
- John Jay: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Our nation is no happy accident. It is evidence of what God will do through a people willing to follow the truth He revealed in Scripture.
Certainly, our nation is now in a major battle for the soul of our country, a battle that is shared by other nations around the world. There are secular and other forces eroding and diluting our memory of, and commitment to, the biblical principles that once dominated western culture.
But as Christians, it is important to remember our Christian heritage and to work for the advancement of it. Guided by Scripture, we can serve our God by serving our country well, and we can serve our country well by serving our God.
President Ronald Reagan, who was devoted to our Christian heritage and the faith on which it was founded, once wrote:
The day of our nation’s birth in that little hall in Philadelphia, [was] a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words “treason, the gallows, the headsman’s axe.”
Benjamin Franklin said, as he prepared to sign the Declaration, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” [On that day] 56 men, a little band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.
But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, three million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, 300 million people with a pedigree that includes the bloodlines of all the world.” Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights… We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.”
When the fireworks go off in celebration of our Independence Day, let them remind you to be grateful to God for the freedom and opportunity we have in our country.
And let them remind you to be grateful to the men and women of our armed services who serve this country tirelessly to protect those freedoms.
But also, let them remind you that freedom on this earth, while indeed so very precious, is nothing compared to the spiritual freedom which we have forever in Jesus. His work in the hearts of humanity is what brings true freedom. Let your celebration transcend the 4th of July, to include a celebration of your freedom in Christ.