On July 4, 1776, 240 years ago, the United States Second Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain. Independence. Freedom. The right to govern oneself; to be free from the tyranny of the king.
In their Declaration of Independence, Congress expressed belief in the equality of all men as deriving from their Creator:
“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.”
Recently, a legislator from the state of Louisiana labeled the Declaration of Independence racist because when it was written only Caucasians were free (not true, but she’s a politician). What she may not have remembered from her civics class was slavery was brought to America by the British and French.
It was the framers of our Declaration who originally hoped to outlaw it.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in the original draft of the Declaration a very specific indictment against the King of England regarding slavery. It was the last of 27 complaints listed in the Declaration and was the longest and harshest by far:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Strong words indeed!
Sadly, this condemnation of slavery was removed from the final version of the Declaration and replaced with a simpler and more ambiguous complaint that the king had “incited domestic insurrections among us.”
Slavery prevailed in much of the country for another 100 years until the groundswell against it reached a boiling point and the civil war was fought to end slavery in the United States once and for all. In the north, 1.5 million soldiers fought to maintain the Union and end slavery. My paternal great-great-grandfather was one of them.
Unfortunately, ending the legality of slavery did not automatically change people’s beliefs. We are 150 years beyond the civil war and we still have a very long way to go to live up to the promise of our Declaration that all men are created equal.
We have an even further road to travel to realize God’s ideal as expressed by Paul:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Honestly, it depresses me when I think about how divided we are in America as a people of God. I get even more depressed when I consider society at large. It seems there is more distrust, angst, and vitriol than ever. Instead of moving toward God’s ideal we seem to be moving away.
It’s not hard to imagine that if we, as Americans, were closer to God we would have less division and strife.
As much as I am saddened by the state of affairs in America, I was downright disgusted when I saw a report released just recently that 46 million men, women, and children are living in slavery somewhere in the world (Global Slavery Index Report 2016).
Over 60% of those living in slavery around the world are in just six countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and North Korea.
It’s also not hard to imagine that if the people in countries where human misery and abuse is commonplace were to experience Christ in a meaningful way, hearts would change. Lives would change.
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
The truth of God’s Word will set all mankind free. It will unite all mankind as one in Christ.
As Christians, we are all called to ministry, to serve the Lord. As leaders, we have a responsibility to use our gifts and talents in service to the Kingdom.
My challenge to you as we celebrate our Independence Day here in America is to consider, “What can I do to help unite the world in the family of God such that we will all be one in Christ Jesus?”
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Category: Personal Development | Character