"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
"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.That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
The Attorney General of the United States would, I assume, argue that those who signed their names to this document could not have been good Christians, for as he recently noted when discussing parents of children who illegally enter this country,
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,”
The Attorney General was referring to what we read earlier, summarized in its opening verses:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.
This passage is cited for the now-discredited belief known as “The Divine Right of Kings,” and I have offered a comment on what I believe Paul was actually trying to do, that I hope will appear in this coming week’s local newspapers. But most certainly, those who advocated separation from the King of England certainly did not draw the same message the Attorney General drew — thanks be to God! And as I noted earlier, perhaps the Attorney General is not familiar with history and its Hitler’s and Stalin’s — and Mao’s and Kim Jung Il’s or Kim Jung Un’s.
Paul’s failure to anticipate notwithstanding, though he knew of the indignities of a Tiberius and a Caligula, without the type of self-regulated freedom that I believe Paul advocates one chapter later in that same letter, I think I, myself, might be somewhat rudderless.
My point today is not to be political, and not even otherwise to mock Jeff Sessions, with whom I rather whole-heartedly disagree on much to do with immigration, both legal and illegal, yet whom I admire for the principle he has shown in recusing himself from what seems to me a wild-goose-chase, the Mueller investigation. I want rather to point to the words that Thomas Jefferson, himself a deist more than a Christian, chose to use in the document whose signing this nation celebrates in three days. A signing in which, I believe, it is not politics to say that Christians should rejoice at what Jefferson and his fellow signers achieved, for they said that the political rights they declared are what God intends for humans.
Christians should rejoice at their appeal to what is both natural and God-given law, for freedom from false and unjust restraints and from injustice and tyranny is something I believe God intends for the children of God. As proof, I offer the allegorical story of the Garden of Eden, in which God grants humans almost complete freedom; Paul, in Romans 14, says much the same, adding that while everything is permitted, not everything should be done. But seeking freedom from tyranny, however much Jeff Sessions might have to labor with it, is certainly consistent with what God wants for the children of God.
And however imperfectly, a principled freedom is what those original signers of that declaration — and those of us who have followed them for two-hundred forty-two years — have sought to achieve.
And as those words of Jefferson attest, it is because it is consistent with what God wants for the humans God has created.
And so even as we celebrate a declaration of independence from an earthly king, let us willingly admit our dependence on and gratitude to the Heavenly King, for however imperfect our earthly lives might be, however imperfectly governments might govern or preachers might preach, whatever might befall any earthly kingdom, we know that there is a heavenly kingdom where there are only two items of law that define our departure from complete freedom: Love God, and Love our fellow human beings.
Though remarkably constraining on one hand, those laws are liberating indeed, and following those laws is the best way to pursue happiness, the happiness which God wants for all — not just for some, but for all — of God’s children.
Thanks be to God for those who made their declaration on behalf of God’s children who have lived and who live in these United States, and thanks be to God through Jesus Christ that we are privileged to know that we are mere sojourners in this free land, for our true home is in another kingdom with Him.
With Him, He who on the night before he died . . .