Summary: There are six truths, six values the church must hold, proclaim, and demonstrate so that others can experience God’s freedom.
Our county will turn 226 on Thursday and I asked myself, “What would Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others think of this country almost 226 years after they wrote and approved the Declaration of Independence? Would they like it? Would they recognize it? Would they still want to live in it?”
They believed in a novel idea that has affected human history – self-governance, democracy. They had this idea that they could rule themselves quite well, thank you very much your Highness!
No longer was there a need for a king or a queen. No longer was there a need for a system of royalty to say what was what. No need for knights, in shining armor or any kind of armor, nor Lords and other royalty.
But, do you know that there are two other Declarations of Independence that we need to briefly acknowledge and which some historians believed laid the groundwork for July 4, 1776?
The first one occurred in 1620 when a ship called the Mayflower came to what we now call Plymouth Rock. Those on board were seeking to worship God without the interference of the State, specifically the King of England. They were called dissenters because they dissented when it came to the practice of their faith and what was expected of them as to both practice and belief.
America began not as a political experiment, but as a religious sanctuary. The Pilgrims were motivated by a deep piety, a strong desire, and a profound faith to worship God without government interference and their arrival on the shores of Massachusetts was a declaration of religious independence. This religious independence and fervor spread throughout the eastern seaboard of this nation and it created a smorgasbord of faith that is a hallmark of this country today.
The second Declaration of Independence was the First Great Awakening. “Now,” you ask, “What was the “First Great Awakening?”
Christine Heyrman in a essay for history teachers entitled, The First Great Awakening, writes, “What historians call "the first Great Awakening" can best be described as a revitalization of religious piety that swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s.” In other words, it was a revival of deep significance in which people declared their declaration of independence from formalism.
She goes on to say in another essay, Religion and The American Revolution, “the members of the revolutionary generation had faced, as individuals, important choices about their fundamental religious beliefs and loyalties, and that experience may have prepared them to make equally crucial and basic decisions about their political beliefs and loyalties. . . . In short, this was a generation of people who had, during their youth, been schooled in the importance of self-determination and even rebellion against the existing hierarchies of deference and privilege.”
In other words, the Mayflower voyage and the First Great Awakening were moral and spiritual, not political, movements that affected our founding fathers’ views and values and influenced their political decisions. The point of this brief history lesson is two –fold: 1. Religion or faith or whatever you want to call it, is a centerpiece of our national history that continues to the present. 2. Freedom to choose that faith is a fundamental issue to this day.
In the document which was approved on July 4, 1776, our Declaration of Independence, we read these words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We hold these truths.
In two different situations that took place within a few hours of one another, Jesus speaks of Truth. John records both situations and the first takes place during the Last Supper with the disciples where in response to a question by a troubled Thomas he says in chapter 14 and verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The second take place in a conversation between Jesus and Pilate during the Trial of Jesus in John 18: 37 and 38. “Pilate replied, “You are a king then?” “You say that I am a king, and you are right,” Jesus said. “I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
Pilate’s question echoes in our time and place. We live in a time where absolute truth is denied and each is left to decide on his or her own what is true. This relativism has created a climate in which a consensus on any given issue is very unlikely. And the tension between those who hold no absolute standards and those who do grows ever stronger as the years go by. Which makes governing this country a challenge. It also makes professing and living out the Christian faith difficult as well.