On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Lee Resolution declaring the Thirteen Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. Two days later, an explanation and justification of the Lee Resolution was indelibly sealed and signed into parchment as the United States Declaration of Independence.
This foundational document concludes with the following paragraph:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America … declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved … And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
The United States of America began with a bold and rebellious proclamation of independence. After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it took seven more years for the Colonies to secure their freedom. In other words, the United Colonies proclaimed their freedom long before they had won their battle for independence.
In many ways, the Declaration of Independence is an article of faith. Faith, in its most generic sense, is a complete trust or strong confidence in something or someone. The Declaration of Independence is a faith statement. It was written under the strong conviction that the United States of America would eventually win freedom from British rule and the perceived tyrannical control of King George III.
In signing this Declaration of Independence, each member of the Continental Congress aligned their fate with the outcome of the American Revolution. If the British had succeeded in quelling the rebellion, each colonial mutineer would have been rewarded a traitor’s execution.
Although there are many different explanations and theories concerning the motivations for the Declaration of Independence, it is clear that a fair amount of risk and uncertainty accompanied this audacious act. The independence of the American Colonies was in no way a forgone conclusion. Even so, the risk of failure was worth the pursuit of freedom.
In the modern era, we celebrate this intrepid act of defiance by converting our currency into fireworks, hot dogs and beer. Our rituals seem to center around eating, drinking and blowing things up. The festive among us seek out a local parade or other more patriotic observances. Even so, most Fourth of July celebrations contain little or no historical reflection. As is often the case with any ritual, over time we forget why we first decided to gather.
Enjoying time with family and friends is certainly a worthy goal for any holiday. However, the Fourth of July weekend is also a good time to reflect upon the power of faith in the midst of extremely challenging times. The United States of America proclaimed its freedom before its freedom had been secured.
When faced with oppression or oppressive circumstance we often retreat into fear and confusion. Instead of moving forward to bring about change, we wait helplessly for the situation to improve. When things continue to decline, an attitude of fatalism and defeatism easily can creep into our way of being.
The Declaration of Independence is a good reminder that sometimes we must proclaim our freedom before we see the fruits of that proclamation. To get out of a big pit, we first need a big confession of faith; our own declaration of independence. Instead of lamenting our perpetual bondage, sometimes we need to push forward and embrace the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” that is endowed to us by our Creator. In other words, there are times when it is necessary to reach out in faith and take hold of “the freedom for which Christ has set us free.”
I personally believe the battle for our freedom already has been won through the cross of Christ. In Christ Jesus we have the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life. God has reached down into the pit to free us. It is our job to reach out in faith and receive this God-given freedom.
Nations will rise and fall, but God’s freedom will last forever.