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.
238 years ago, a group of determined men gathered in Philadelphia to sign a document. The months preceding the meeting had been filled with turmoil, but the challenges these men 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
In Christians and non-Christians alike, God has placed upon our hearts the call to flourish. 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 they 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 there efforts. They did, however, recognize that because men 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 the basis for flourishing.
John Adams wrote to his wife in anticipation of the signing of the Declaration on July 2, 1776, that day was a “day of deliverance,” one that should be celebrated with “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time on forevermore.”
We should remember this day with joy and thankfulness. But we should not stop there.
The freedoms we enjoy are many. For this, we can thank our founders and those who have sacrificed much to protect our liberty. But these freedoms are under ongoing attack. Expanding regulations and restrictive policies curtail our creative potential and the wealth that could be gained through exchange.
On Monday, the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, upheld the right of closely-held corporations to exercise religious freedom from federal regulations in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. This is a decided victory for the Christian entrepreneur because, as Hugh Whelchel points out, there is no longer a choice “between God and business.” This is a victory, but it is not the end of the conflict.
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 238 years ago.