“Live as a people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16
Today we celebrate our nation’s independence from the tyranny we endured by England centuries ago. The pioneers of this land had a long list of grievances against Great Britain. There was no one reason that sparked our desire for independence, but many that built up over time that all boiled down to the fact: the colonists disagreed with how Great Britain governed the colonies and how we were being treated. Britain felt that the colonies existed and were to be used in ways that best suited the crown. The biggest issue and the one that probably brought the revolution to a head was the fact that Britain taxed us heavily and we wanted representation in parliament as our founding fathers and mothers felt there should be no taxation without representation. This would become the rallying cry for our eventual independence.
We were also a bunch of independent thinkers in this country as we were in the age of enlightenment. People were questioning the politics of governments, the role of the church in the life of each person, and they were questioning the role of society as a whole. The influencers of this time frame were people like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke whose writings were a major influence, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as well as the Baron de Montesquieu.
This time period was also called the age of Reason and many of the colonists who had a pioneering spirit to begin with, followed this new way of thinking. It is no wonder they parted ways with Britain. I wonder if we aren’t in a paradigm shift of thinking right now and it remains to be seen what will happen in our country as we navigate these new ideas that are impacting our current society.
But back to the colonists, who were also influenced by the ideas espoused by the Puritans and Presbyterians. Radical ideas like all men are created equal and kings do not have divine rights permeated their teachings and gained a foothold in the new world that would one day become the nation we know as the United States of America. These new ways of thinking about people and government from these and many other sources that questioned the status quo spurred the colonists to rebel against what they considered to be unjust laws and ways of government.
In 1776, these new ideas resulted in our independence from Britain. And today we celebrate 246 years of independence. Before we get too high and mighty, we should remember that first, we owe a debt of gratitude to all those colonists and the leaders they birthed like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hamilton, and many others who fought for and won our independence. It is not something to take for granted but something to protect and celebrate.
Second, we need to remember that our nation was founded as a Republic, and we need to protect the rights we have under our form of government. These rights do not come free and we as citizens have a responsibility to live in ways that further the principles our country was founded upon. Principles that give every person the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We also need to realize that our right to happiness should not be at the expense of another person’s rights. We can’t always have everything we want. We do have the right to those things we need and there is a big difference between what we want and what we need.
So many factors, and I have only listed a couple, went into the colonist’s desire to create a new nation, under God, giving liberty and freedom to all its citizens. And today, we have the privilege to continue living this great experiment. Let us not forget the sacrifices of our ancestors nor should we ever take for granted what we have.
This is also a great reminder for Christians. Why? Because we already live as Peter said, as a people who are free. But…and this next part is very important…we should not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil. We should think through all our decisions to ensure that we are making ones that do no harm to others. We are a people called to encourage and lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ and not to harm for any reason.
So, I have rambled on enough for today and I will close with a quote from John Wesley the founder of Methodism and who lived in England during the time of the American Revolution:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Excellent words to live by.
May your Fourth of July be filled with an appreciation of all we have as we celebrate our nations birthday.