Tomorrow we, as a nation, will celebrate an event that took place 239 years ago – the unanimous passage of the Declaration of Independence by the 2nd Continental Congress, giving birth to the United States of America. Among other noteworthy phrases in this historic document is the following: “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.” While we wave our flags and watch some fireworks, I hope we can celebrate the hopes contained in our forefathers’ words.
- We have been endowed by our Creator with the right to life. These words convey a hope that we, as Americans, have the divine right to live our lives free from governmental interference. Fully understanding that there was a necessity for civil order, our forefathers longed for a society of people who could live as they desired where they desired.
- We have been endowed by our Creator with the right to liberty. This phrase, likewise, carries a promise to a livelihood free from oppression. The life given by the Creator is a life of freedom where we, as citizens, have the privilege of unlimited opportunity.
- We have been endowed by our Creator with the right to pursue happiness. It is interesting that we are not promised happiness, but only the right to pursue it. This again is a divine bestowal of a livelihood that brings us contentment and pleasure. We are a nation which holds as primary the right to chase our dreams and pursue our happiness.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
As I look at the above scriptures, I see these principles in reverse order: Our Creator, through Christ, has endowed us with Life, Truth (which will set you free) and the Way (to pursue ultimate happiness in our eternal dwelling place). This is where the challenges lie for all who seek what the 2nd Continental Congress described. We are not given the right to life as we define it, or liberty as we define it, or the pursuit of happiness as we define it. We are given the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as defined by the Creator and demonstrated through Christ. My rights are not self-centered, in that I cannot simply do whatever I want, but society-centered, knowing that I live and exercise freedom to seek satisfaction in the midst of a community.
Our creator has endowed us with inalienable, irrevocable and irremovable, rights. Let us celebrate the right to life – from our first heartbeat to natural death – for all of our citizenry (irrespective of race, gender, economic status or intellectual ability). Let us celebrate the right to liberty and work for the elimination of all things that would put our citizenry in bondage (everything from addictions to usury to trafficking). Let us celebrate the right to the pursuit of happiness, recognizing that there is no peace or contentment by reveling in sin or diminishing our neighbor’s welfare.
Happy Independence Day!