The United States of America is 243 years old today. That’s a long time for a nation to remain free. But, when you look at the history of the USA in the context of world history, America is just a CHILD among the nations. Egypt, China, Japan, Rome, Greece all make America’s history seem so very short. Do you realize that when Thomas Jefferson died, Abraham Lincoln was a young man of 17. When Lincoln was assassinated, Woodrow Wilson was a boy of 8. By the time Woodrow Wilson died, Ronald Reagan was a boy of 12, and when he died in 2004, Donald Trump was 57.
There you have it. The lives of five men can take you back to the beginning of the USA, 243 years ago. So young, and yet the US stands tall among these nations because of the principles on which it was established: “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.” Thus begins the Declaration of Independence, and do not let anyone fool you. Freedom ought and needs to be celebrated.
So I, an Englishman, celebrate today with you the freedoms which God has blessed this great nation. Now I cannot tell you whether God has blessed us with liberty and therefore, we are free, or we have wisely and simply built our liberty based on biblical principles, and thus, we are free. In any case, our freedom is from God. Now let me temper our celebrations with a caution: With freedom comes great responsibility. We are not free to live excessive lives. We are not set at liberty to pursue selfish ends. Independence should not make us infidels. As Paul so eloquently put it: “You, my brothers, (and sisters) were called to be free. “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Use your freedom to serve. In other words: Freedom ought to be used to pursue good.
After Paul’s long defense of freedom in Christ, he launches into the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The message here is clear. Liberty and civility are two parts of a whole.
You know as well as I that our nation has lost, in the last 20 years, a great deal of its gentleness, it’s kindness, it’s civility. Children are increasingly belligerent and adults more coarse than before. Therefore, as children of God, let’s break the cycle. Don’t let the abundance we have acquired through liberty make us selfish. Celebrate with me today not just our liberties but our heritage of civility. Amen.