It is traditional for the citizens of the United States to celebrate July 4th as the day on which the final draft of our Declaration of Independence from Britain was ratified and signed by the 56 representatives of the 13 colonies. This became our independence day, a day of freedom, a day to celebrate liberty.
The second line of this document is probably the most famous. It reads like this: “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.” The concept that there is a Creator who created all humanity equal and gave us certain rights is no longer self-evident. This worldview is no longer shared or is it even the most common. It is no longer self-evident or a “common sense.”
Because this “common sense” is no longer common, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. The benefits, the unalienable rights we so desire, don’t come from us. They come from the Creator. When we remove the Creator from the equation, we find that we are unable to endow these rights. We all want our rights to supersede everyone else’s rights. Without allegiance to the Creator, we can only look out for number one — ourselves. Our personal rights, our personal interests, our personal benefit, become our personal bottom line. We are now taught to believe in ourselves.
Jesus is the Creator incarnate, who was born among us to reveal God, to reveal himself, to humanity. By believing in Christ Jesus, and not ourselves, we find we have access to these rights of life and liberty. And no one can take them away. The apostle John wrote that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Whole-hearted allegiance to Christ Jesus has certain unalienable rights, or benefits. The chief of which is life, a life that cannot be permanently taken away.
Another benefit of being a follower of Jesus is liberty — freedom from the tyranny of self-interest. Freedom to be able to love, to put other’s interests above your own. A freedom to forgive. This liberty comes to those who submit themselves to the authority of the Creator through Jesus.
So how do we avail ourselves of these unalienable rights endowed to us by the Creator? How do we experience the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that has been given to us by the Creator? The apostle John writes, “to all who receive Jesus, to those who believed in his name, God gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
On this Fourth of July celebration, let’s give some thought to the implications of one of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence. And may we, by it, make our declaration of independence from what now goes for “common sense” and align ourselves with the Creator through his incarnation in Jesus.
The Rev. Steven Ganz is pastor of Clover Pass Community Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.