2017 | Week of June 26 | #1209
Next Tuesday we celebrate our nation’s 241st recognition of “Deliverance Day,” as John Adams referred to it, or, as it has come to be called, “Independence Day.” During these days may we ponder the words independence and liberty. What do they mean? Independence from what? Liberty for what? And what relevance do independence and liberty have for us today?
Clearly the founding generation of America was focused on independence from the tyranny of a foreign power. But tyranny can be exercised by powers that have no national boundaries. The Founders hoped that tyranny and dependence could and would be replaced by liberty and independence, as we are reminded by Patrick Henry’s stirring speech that concludes, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
It is interesting how the word liberty interacts with the biblical concept of freedom. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that, “The object of the Republic is liberty. Liberty needs virtue.” “And,” Dr. Rush, continued, “virtue among the people is impossible without Religion.”
Dr. Rush was referring to the biblical concept of freedom being tied to virtue–the ability to do not merely what one wants to do, but that which is best for one to do. In other words, doing what one should do. As Jesus put it, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed,” referring to the forgiveness and spiritual transformation that faith in Christ brings and to the supernatural ability that enables us to subordinate our wants to God’s will, the thing that in every case is best for us to do–not just for ourselves, but for others also.
And how does one discover God’s will? James Wilson, an early justice on the U. S. Supreme Court provided this answer, “How shall we, in particular cases, discover the will of God? We discover it by our conscience, our reason and by the Holy Scriptures. The law of nature and the law of revelation are both divine [in that] they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source.”
The founders were, like us, all plagued with their own set of weaknesses and failings. But we can thank God for people like them, who strove to apply the perspective gained from the Scriptures to the task of forming a system of self‑government.
Today the loss of the biblical truth foundation is serious. But whatever our challenges, I am grateful for the American founders, and to the God they worshiped, and to all those who have labored and fought to obtain and maintain our liberty and independence.
In spite of recent elections and some good decisions being made at both the federal and state levels, our values remain under siege. Those opposing our view of marriage, family, life and religious freedom are zealous and energized to change both policy and culture. In 1776 the war would be fought with muskets and cannons. In 2017 we are fighting a different war. This war for marriage, family, life and religious freedom is a war of words and ideas, a culture war, a clash of world views. To lose ultimately would be to subject ourselves and the generations to come to an ideological tyranny. As in 1776, the stakes are high. What path will the Republic choose? Our actions and courage in the days ahead will help determine the outcome.
America’s fate could have been very different. And so it remains still today. The freedom to do what is right, to choose for the right, by God’s grace, is something that we each must, that every generation must, determine through our thoughts, words and deeds in this life.
As Major General Joseph Warren said to the army in Massachusetts prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill, “Our country is in danger now, but not to be despaired of. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rest the happiness and liberty of millions not yet born. Act worthy of yourselves.”
In a similar way, in some significant way, “the fortunes of America” depend on those of us in Wisconsin who believe virtue and liberty go hand and hand. It has fallen to us to help decide the important questions upon which rest the well‑being, happiness and, yes, the liberty of millions not yet born. May God provide us with the wisdom, strength and courage so that we too “will act worthy of [ourselves].”
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”