Is Today About More Than Hot Dogs and Fireworks?
by Dale Reeves
Pastor of Creative Content
I’ve been thinking about our nation’s birthday the past few weeks and in doing some research I discovered an article I had written my junior year at Colerain High School (in January 1975). 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. Hmmmm. 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—but, please don’t jump ahead!
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 to 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.”
There has been much talked about in our generation regarding America being a “Christian” nation, or a “post-Christian” nation. Our country remains sharply divided on moral issues such as abortion, racism, the definition of marriage, and homosexuality. And we know that God calls 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 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.”
So this week we celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this great land. But in our celebrations and in our conversations, I would encourage us to obey God’s desires for our freedom in these ways:
- “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).
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” (NLT).
As we celebrate our nation’s holiday today, I believe 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: Pray for our nation, pray for individuals you 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!