by Dale Reeves
In preparation for our nation’s upcoming birthday, I combed through a blog I had written a few years ago in which I referenced an article I wrote in high school. It’s amazing that I still have this in my filing cabinet at home, double-spaced on flimsy onionskin typing paper. If you’re under twenty-five years of age, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s a filing cabinet?” and “What does typing paper look like?”
The year before I graduated (which happened to be America’s bicentennial celebration year), I wrote an article for an English Composition class that was entitled, “The Religious Beliefs of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. Constitution.” In case you’re curious, I got an A minus on the paper. My teacher commented in red ink that I should have more fully developed the conclusion. He was right. Today, I’d like to finish the conclusion.
In skimming through this paper, I remembered again . . .
- Our country’s founding fathers came from a variety of religious backgrounds—Puritans, Presbyterians, Calvinists, Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Jews, and other groups that had settled in America.
- These various groups helped shape the spiritual beliefs of the authors of the United States Constitution.
- George Washington believed that the men in his army ought to worship God and act like Christians, “imploring the blessings of heaven.”
- Benjamin Franklin believed strongly in religious freedom and felt that Congress should be opened each day with prayer, believing that America would not succeed as a nation without God’s help.
- Alexander Hamilton wrote that a merciful God must be good; and that even though his religious beliefs didn’t agree with a duel, he couldn’t back down from Aaron Burr’s challenge.
- John Adams once said, “I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.”
- Patrick Henry said, “Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation . . . practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.”
Let Freedom Ring
There has been much talked about in our generation regarding America being a “Christian” nation, or a “post-Christian” nation. Even with the recent Supreme Court decision of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, we know that our country still remains sharply divided on the issue of abortion. This is also true of other moral issues such as racism, the definition of marriage, and homosexuality. God is continually calling us to pray for our nation realizing that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (a statement made by Abraham Lincoln, but first made by Jesus Christ in Mark 3:25).
The Second Continental Congress actually approved a resolution declaring the United States an independent nation on July 2, 1776, but we celebrate our country’s independence on July 4. And we will enjoy oohing and aahing at fireworks because our country’s first vice president, John Adams, said we should. As he wrote from Philadelphia to his wife Abigail in Boston, on July 3, 1776, “The Day of Deliverance will be commemorated by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
Next Monday we will celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this great land. Perhaps you’ll watch Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest to see if Joey Chestnut can defend his title for consuming the most hot dogs in ten minutes. You may grill out, pack up some chairs and go watch a parade, head to a park, or beat the heat by diving in a swimming pool. And, then you may enjoy a red, white, and blue fireworks display. But, what can you do on a daily basis to walk in the freedom God has given us? God’s Word has a lot to say about freedom, and it’s not talking about the freedom we enjoy as a nation. For instance, He tells us . . .
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NIV).
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law” (Galatians 5:1, NLT).
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13, NLT).
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16, NIV).
“But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:9, NLT).
“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:19, NLT).
Praying for and Sharing His Freedom
Around 430 B.C., Ezra the scribe wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT).
There are lots of conditions there: “my people called by my name”; “humble themselves”; “pray”; “seek my face”; “turn from their wicked ways.” But if we will comply with these conditions, God says he will forgive and restore. We can’t control God’s response, or the will of others to go against God’s will. We can only control our faithfulness to do what he asks of us.
It is because of sacrifice and battles, both physical and spiritual, that we can experience the gift of freedom that we enjoy in this land and in our personal lives. As we celebrate our nation’s independence next Monday, remember that God calls his redeemed people—those whom he has rescued from darkness and delivered into the freedom of the light of his Son—to do several things. We must pray for our nation, pray for individuals we know who are living in darkness, pray for opportunities to serve those who need Jesus, seek after God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and look for common ground to share the saving freedom that can only be found in Jesus. Our only hope personally and collectively as a nation is in him. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!