Only recently have I become more interested in reading the full document of the Declaration of Independence. I must have been distracted in Mr. Inskeep’s 8thgrade American History class and missed out on a few details or perhaps just crammed for the test. Imagine that? In any case, I’m learning there are many facts about the document that I either forgot, did not realize or think much about at age 14. With the passing of time, I appreciate more now the freedoms the document stood for and our forefathers and mothers fought and died. For instance, the document was not signed on July 4th. It was adopted by the Continental Congress on the 4thand thus we celebrate Independence Day, but it was not signed until a month later. Thirty of the Fifty-Six signers suffered terribly for their bold declaration: capture, torture, loss of property houses either pillaged or burned, loss of life or family member’s death. Only one man who signed recanted after torture by the British, but later swore allegiance once again to the United States.
But here’s one observation I’ve made about the document itself—Wow, is it loaded! There is power, passion and no doubt story behind each phrase and thought penned. There are no doubt references to specific stories and individual encounters of injustice, exploitation, excessive uses of force, extortion behind each statement that prompted the declaration that enough is enough. More stories and accounts than even historians can completely uncover are buried deep within the document. The most famous and universal statement is this:
“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.”
Think about it for a moment with me—“We hold these truths to be self-evident”—as in, there is truth, that is absolutely naturally apparent to all humans. There is a Creator of truth—and we are NOT the creator of this truth, nor did any king or government create such a universal law. There is ONE who is above all and in all and through all who has determined this truth. Not so popular a thought in today’s “my truth, your truth” philosophical environment. Although we love the second section of the declaration, the right to—Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness—we all too quickly forget our dependence upon the first.
I would offer what the bible declares, as followers of Jesus, we recognize our dependence in the midst of our independence from slavery to sin, fear and death. We have a dependence in the midst of our freedom that helps keep us grounded in the reality that there is a truth maker, upon which we are dependent for our freedom. He is the Creator and his name is Jesus Christ. We are not the way the truth and the life. But we follow and depend on the one who is! Therefore, we can have life, liberty and pursue happiness as he is the real giver of that freedom.
Check out these declarations of truth:
Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Simply put, the truth is, because of Jesus, I’m no longer a slave to fear and oppression, I am a child of God. And God declares us free and independent from the tyranny of sin, fear and death with NEW LIFE in Jesus.
May we as independent dependent followers, live out our independence to bless others as we depend on His Grace, power and love.
Happy Independence Day!