This week Americans are celebrating the 235th anniversary of a written statement of freedom we call the Declaration of Independence. Fifty-six courageous, freedom-loving individuals signed this document stating, “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.” One gets the impression these men were serious.
Most of these men were men of strong faith. Twenty-seven had seminary degrees. That should get our attention. It is comparable to half of the current U.S. Congress being pastors. America has a strong religious heritage. There is no credible argument against that. Even those founders who were not Christians held great respect for Christian values, embraced many of those values and were strongly influenced by the teachings of scripture.
Four years ago Matthew Spalding wrote a series of reports covering the basic principles of America’s foundations. In report number 11, titled Independence Forever: Why America Celebrates the Fourth of July, he wrote, “The Declaration of Independence and the liberties recognized in it are grounded in a higher law to which all human laws are answerable. This higher law can be understood to derive from reason — the truths of the Declaration are held to be ‘self-evident’ — but also revelation. There are four references to God in the document ….” Spalding’s report underscored the role of God and biblical revelation in the establishment of our founding documents. Human reason alone was inadequate to build a great nation.
John Adams, the second president of the United States said, “(W)e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion …. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” From the foundation of America, Christians have been the salt that preserved its values and influenced its direction. We have been the light which has guided the nation through many dark nights. Salt and light — this is what Jesus said we are.
The contributions of Christians and the principles of the Christian faith have made a significant impact on this great nation. Probably our most abiding gift is the principle of freedom. Freedom is a biblical value. History repeats the saga of man’s bondage and the search for freedom. Part of that search is personal; part is national. But the search never ends until the Christian message is embraced.
Jesus reminds us, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). That’s all of us. All of us have sinned, so all are enslaved, longing for freedom. Since Jesus never ends his message on a hopeless note, he added, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Free indeed! That is the longing of every human heart.
When personal freedom is experienced, it transforms, forbidding silence. We are compelled to speak out when the cries of oppression and bondage are heard. This was the impetus for the American colonists to respond to the voices of oppression. They acted on their convictions.
Today a misguided movement insistently calls for the silence of Christian conviction in every venue. They falsely conclude that freedom of religion must mean freedom from religion. Their goal is to eradicate God from every public place. They continue to work diligently to eliminate any form of religious influence from public life, especially where there is any connection to government.
In reality, those who wish to silence the voices of Christians are calling for the removal of freedom. Ironically they use the voice of freedom to call for its termination. They do not understand the meaning of freedom. They are promoting “license,” which is the idea that one is free to do anything they want. True liberty is the freedom to do what we “ought.”
In the bondage of sin, we are not free to do what we ought. We are shackled by error, completely incapable of moral good. Sin’s grip has saturated every element of the human condition.
The only hope of each human being is to choose God’s best and experience His freedom. The only hope for a nation is for more men and women to embrace the truth of scripture through faith in Christ. This is not a time for silence. If ever the voices of pastors, churches and Christians should be heard is its now.
The conviction of freedom must be lived. If it were yours to sign today, would you “… mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”? May that question haunt us until we break the silence and take a stand for the biblical value of freedom.