As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we reflect on what it means to, in fact, celebrate. According to Webster’s dictionary (1828 ed.), a celebration incorporates, among other nuances, a setting apart by “marks of joy or respect” of an event or distinction worth honoring.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of the American experiment, but it has not always been characterized by cookouts and fireworks.
242 years ago, a group of determined group of patriots gathered in Philadelphia to sign a document. The months preceding the meeting had been filled with turmoil, but the challenges these American founders faced only strengthened them in their resolve. And they did not take this action lightly; it could have easily jeopardized their lives.
What motivated them to take such a risk?
Freedom—and Flourishing, Too
God has placed upon the hearts of all people the call to flourish—Christians or not. We are all made in the image of God, the ultimate Creator, and we are all called to use the gifts, talents, and resources given us to create more beautiful and productive things.
As Hugh Whelchel explains:
The work we do in the here and now is important to God and serves as a signpost to point others to the New City, the City of God, where all of God’s children will live one day in perfect shalom. Until then our calling is to work for the shalom of this present world to the glory of God, by the grace of God, reweaving the unraveled fabric of our broken world.
The founders who gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence shared a common desire to pursue their faith and their talents as they felt called in the pursuit of an idea that they can and should be able to live without tyranny. Although the founders weren’t all Christians, the act of fleeing persecution and envisioning a better state demonstrates the biblical characteristics of perseverance and creativity.
Many faced religious, economic, or political oppression in Europe. Despite—or because of—these hardships, they fought to preserve the freedom to flourish.
Remembering with Joy and Thankfulness
The founders were not perfect and neither were their efforts. They did, however, recognize that because men and women are not angels, they must ensure limited government. They were committed to the type of society that protects those freedoms that allow us to flourish. By rejecting the British monarchy and setting forth on an experiment steeped in liberty, Americans have experienced amazing opportunity.
The society created by the founders’ courageous actions has allowed individuals to benefit themselves and others through markets by using their gifts, talents, and resources to create value in a world of scarcity. This is an important component of flourishing.
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us celebrate fully, with joy and respect, the inestimable blessings we continue to experience due to the actions of a small but dedicated group 242 years ago.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the freedom to flourish in Free Indeed: Living Life in Light of the Biblical View of Freedom.
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