By DANNY MINTON
As Independence Day approaches amid the fireworks, golf tournaments, trips to the beach and barbeques, there will be some who take time to remember that this is a day which represents the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The colonies firmly stated to England that they would now become a free group and for the first time referring to ourselves as “the united States of America.” The small “u” is not a misprint, but an affirmation that the 13 colonies were united in their declaration for Freedom from the slavery of England.
In the end, there would be 56 representatives who signed the document, some more enthusiastic than others. Nevertheless, it was a document that pointed out how ill-treated the colonists were by the king of England and the desire to separate and take control of taking care of themselves.
It would not come easy with families painfully divided, war between people of the same heritage and the death estimates of 1 in 20 of all able-bodied colonial men. There are accounts that one of the signers of the Declaration, Richard Stockton of New Jersey, was captured and under duress repudiated his signing of the document swearing his allegiance to King George III. As a result, it would be that he would be looked down upon because of his “treachery” as some would brand what he had done. He would become a broken man but reaffirm his loyalty to the state of New Jersey later.
Freedom does not come easy. As some have stated, “Freedom is never free!” It costs to be free. It costs in relationships. It can be costly financially or socially. It cost lives of good men and women. It is a place that everyone wants to hold in life. To obtain it and hold on to it takes a lifetime of determination, commitment, and sacrifice.
Centuries before that historic date in 1776 there was another declaration made. It came in several forms, written several different ways but all with the same message. My favorite is in Mark 10:45, “For the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That declaration was presented as a determination to separate those who desire to follow the ways of God to be freed from the bind of the tyrant of sin.
Over the years that declaration would be upheld by many as they fought the war against Satan and his soldiers. The freedom began with a death and would be followed by many more. Families would be torn apart, and relationships would be broken. Freedom is not easy in any form. One man, centuries before Richard Stockton was born, who signed up for the cause would under duress deny his allegiance not only once, but three times. Others would abandon their leader leaving him almost alone to face the enemy. Treachery? No, none of us knows what we would do under such pressure. The one would later reaffirm his allegiance and become a great leader of the cause. His name was Peter. The others would all live the rest of their lives for his cause of freedom.
We can be thankful to those who took the chance to build a fresh new country, dedicated to treating everyone fairly. We are thankful for those more than 1.1 million Americans who have died over our history to help us retain that freedom.
But most of all we are thankful for the one who frees us from sin and the millions of followers who have given their lives over the centuries carrying the banner of Christ. Each year take time over the “Fourth of July” holiday to be thankful for your freedom in this country. Then each morning, when you open your eyes from a good night’s sleep, take time to be thankful for the freedom you have from sin because of God’s great love for us all. “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.” Galatians 5:1
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ