The Fourth of July is the day we set aside annually to celebrate Independence Day. It’s the day that the Founding Fathers of our nation signed the Declaration of Independence, formally breaking ties with Great Britain. The main impetus of what was a very drastic action – rejecting the authority of the King – was that the King of Great Britain had established “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”https://billofrightsinstitute.org/primary-sources/declaration-of-independence, accessed June 24, 2023. The colonists were determined to rid themselves of this tyrant in order to be free to pursue “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”Ibid. While the Declaration was signed on July 4, 1776, it wasn’t until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 that the Revolutionary War ended and we actually achieved independence.https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/american-revolution-faqs, accessed June 24, 2023. At that point, the United States was a free nation.
As we ponder the significance of Independence Day, we realize that the very concept of freedom came from the God-fearing perspective held by the Founders. According to them, the rights they proclaimed were “endowed by their Creator” and they ended the Declaration “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”https://billofrightsinstitute.org/primary-sources/declaration-of-independence, accessed June 25, 2023. But the liberties our Founders fought for have been greatly eroded and, today, even the basic concepts of being subject to “the Laws of Nature of and Nature’s God” are much maligned in both government and society. That can cause much confusion today on what it means to live as a good citizen of our country.
As biblical counselors, it’s important for us to help clear that confusion by instructing our counselees towards a biblical understanding of freedom and its implications. We can help them live in a way that appreciates what our Founders accomplished yet honors “Nature’s God” first and foremost. Here are four ways to think about that.
First, we pray for our leaders that we may live a quiet and peaceable life (1 Timothy 2:2). While not all Christians, our Founding Fathers “were religious men who wanted religion…to have significant influence in the public square.”https://www.masters.edu/master_tmu_news/the-faith-of-the-founding-fathers/, accessed June 30, 2023. We can pray that God would again send us such leaders but it’s important to remember that “when Paul told Timothy to pray for kings, the reigning emperor was Nero, whose vanity, cruelty, and hostility to the Christian faith were widely known.”John Stott, The Bible Speaks Today, Logos Bible Software, 1996. So although we no longer have the godly leadership we had in 1776, we can still pray that we would continue to be free to live in a way that reflects biblical truth and remains free to share the gospel.
Second, similar to the Israelite exiles in Babylon, we should “seek the welfare of the city… and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). Society around us seems to be in a moral free fall and it certainly seems that we now live in Babylon. But we can pray for the welfare of our country. We can pray that we would remain at peace, that the gospel would spread within our nation and, as we have for many years, have the material resources to send missionaries throughout the world.
Third, we must stand for biblical truth and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Like Daniel living in Babylon, we must serve and support our nation where we can, but draw the line at anything that opposes faithfulness to our Savior. And tying the last two points together, the best way we can seek the welfare of our nation is to continue to teach and remain faithful to biblical truth.
Lastly, we should remember that we are pilgrims, merely passing through this side of heaven. Our first, and lasting allegiance is not to any earthly nation, but to the Kingdom of God. This is because our primary “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Indeed, Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), and as ambassadors, we are “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). We are here to share the gospel message of our King.
So, on this Independence Day, we should certainly be grateful for the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made in order for us to be citizens of a free country. But as great as those sacrifices were, they pale in comparison to the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross for our everlasting freedom as citizens of heaven. As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us thank God for the freedom we have in this country to serve as ambassadors for Him and let us be faithful to boldly share with our fellow citizens how it is that we gain true and everlasting freedom.