Have you ever thought about why we celebrate the 4th of July? Probably not. Honestly, it is very unusual for a country to celebrate its declaration of independence. Most countries celebrate the day their constitution was signed, but we celebrate the signing of our declaration of independence. There is good reason to do so.
Never in the history of the world had one group of people so eloquently laid out a case for overthrowing a government. The colonist set out a list of grievances which demonstrated the challenges when someone has no voice. As they wrote, “They…have been deaf to the voice of justice.” The signers of the Declaration believed that justice was derived not from a King but from a Creator. They held a “firm reliance on the protection of a divine Providence”. Their belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” governed their actions. Those rights stemmed from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
No American document has had greater global influence than the Declaration of Independence. The ideas of fundamental rights and justice influenced the French Revolution, William Wilberforce and his push for the abolition of the slave trade, numerous nation’s constitutions, and our own history. Abraham Lincoln was strongly influenced by the Declaration in his freeing of slaves and establishment of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to our constitution. Without the 14th amendment rights that today we take for granted would not exist.
Some people love to criticize our history. One of our strengths is allowing such criticism. But it is misplaced. The 56 men who “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” impacted the world in a way they could not know. Attacking them because they were white or Christian or slave owners is to misunderstand history. They were not perfect men – only one man was ever perfect (Jesus). But they risked everything for a new birth of freedom which has served as a shining example for the world.
The United States is not perfect. We continue to struggle against multiple injustices and risk being “deaf to the voice of justice”. We are losing our representation when big money controls government. But we have a system that is capable of responding to the needs of our day. Let’s celebrate that, even as we pledge “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to advancing liberty and justice for all.
For myself that means pledging my life to promote access to justice and access to Jesus. All people are created equal by a creator God and that should impact how we love and serve others. Last weekend one of our centers in Phoenix partnered with Good Will in providing free legal services to the community. Fourteen people with heavy burdens and challenges met with attorneys to receive direction and counsel. Burdens were lifted, minds set at ease, and justice made possible. Two women accepted Christ as their Savior. They recognized they are the same as anyone else, created in the image of God and precious to Him. Last Sunday they were in church for the first time. Praise God.
I can’t solve all the justice issues facing our nation, but I can pledge my life to engaging Christ followers to serve the legal and spiritual needs of the poor. America is not perfect, but I love my country and the freedom that allows me to encourage the church to get involved in serving their neighbor. As the people of God let’s not be “deaf to the voice of justice”. Let’s “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Prov. 31:8-9.
How about you? What do you think?