Summary: Three lessons the American nation needs to learn concerning its freedom.
I forget which philosopher said that “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” We learn from history—not to live in the past, but learn the principles that history has to teach us. We don’t live our lives in the past hoping that circumstances will return like they were in the “good old days,” because, quite frankly, we sometimes find that the good old days were not quite so good after all. We are reminded that the cure for many diseases were unknown in the “good old days.” We are reminded that the value of persons was diminished by social standing or cultural mores. We are reminded that transportation and communication, food and health care were not readily accessible in those “good old days.”
There are many things from the past that we should attempt to reclaim. Home and family seems like a good place to start. God and faith seems like another area where we need to learn the lessons that history has to teach us. God and faith established for our nation our moral values. God and faith give us a moral center and a sure foundation from which we govern ourselves. Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Perhaps we need to learn that lesson again. Perhaps we need to learn that Jesus called us to be “salt and light” in the world. Being salt and light means that we do not have a faith that we can check at the door before entering public debate on social and cultural issues. The light that Christ calls us to bring to the world is a constant light, not to be turned on and off by an invisible switch every time we leave the church or our home. Perhaps we need to learn again there are no secular/sacred distinctions in the life of a Christian.
One week from today, we will celebrate our 228th birthday as a nation. We will spend some of this week preparing for the big day on the lake, or the big family reunion, or for the fireworks display that night. For others, time will be spent reflecting on our nation’s history, and the fight that has been, and even now, is being waged to protect the freedom we all take so much for granted. As we go through the next week, I want us to remember three lessons that every Christian citizen needs to learn.
First, freedom is never free. Freedom for our great nation has come at a great cost. Our brave men and women stand in harms way today in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that each morning the newspaper has one more story telling the story of an American soldier who has given his/her life for the cause of freedom. Think of the great cost in human life through two world wars, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. Mothers and fathers have lost sons and daughters. Spouses have been lost to one another. Children have lost mothers and fathers. The cost of freedom is truly inestimable, and unless and until, someone loses a loved one in the context of the fight for freedom, we can never know the ultimate cost.
The founders of our nation knew the great cost of freedom. Yet they willingly put themselves on the line for the idea of liberty that springs eternal in the human heart. Signing the Declaration of Independence became a death warrant for those who affixed their signatures. Fifty-six men signed the Declaration. Of those fifty-six, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured by the British. Nine more died from wounds or other hardships caused by the war. Carter Braxton was a wealthy trader and planter from Virginia. Braxton saw his ships sunk by the British Navy. He sold his home to pay his debts and died in poverty. During the battle of Yorktown, British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson’s home for his headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. Nelson’s home was totally destroyed, and he died in bankruptcy. John Hart was forced to flee from his home where his wife lay on her deathbed. His thirteen children were forced to flee as well. His property and his mill was destroyed. For over a year, Hart lived in the forest and in caves. When he was finally able to return home, he found his wife dead, and he never saw his children again. In a few short weeks, Hart, too, was dead from exhaustion. They knew the high cost of freedom.