What is the anniversary of your “dependence?” For the United States of America the official independence day is July 2, 1776.
America’s independence was actually declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The night of the second the Pennsylvania Evening Post published the statement:”This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”
So what happened on the Glorious Fourth? The document justifying the act of Congress-you know it as Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence-was adopted on the fourth, as is indicated on the document itself, which is, one supposes, the cause for all the confusion. As one scholar has observed, what has happened is that the document announcing the event has overshadowed the event itself.
When did Americans first celebrate independence? Congress waited until July 8, when Philadelphia threw a big party, including a parade and the firing of guns. The army under George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the new July 9 and celebrated then. Georgia got the word August 10. And when did the British in London finally get wind of the declaration? August 30.
John Adams, writing a letter home to his beloved wife Abigail the day after independence was declared (i.e. July 3), predicted that from then on”the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” A scholar coming across this document in the nineteenth century quietly” corrected” the document, Adams predicting the festival would take place not on the second but the fourth.
How the United States came to celebrate the Fourth of July is an interesting and involved story, as is the means by which the Declaration of Independence was signed and published. But these interesting historical facts are not what I am writing about on this July 2. The question I am asking is simply, “Are you free?”
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, especially those who were raised in a church, it might not be possible to declare the exact date and time that we began our journey as his follower. Even more difficult, for those of us who have been raised in the cocoon of fundamentalist legalism, is the concept of freedom. I was raised in a group that believed that the following activities were sins: dancing, drinking alcohol, drinking caffeine, attending movies, playing cards (using real cards!), engaging in work on the sabbath day, eating unclean meats, getting divorced, and so the list goes on. These are only the “don’ts.” There were a lot of “do’s” as well. It was hard to keep all of these rules. It was also hard to feel free. I have the same problem today. The religious part of me wants to constantly sit in judgment of my behavior. And when I am “keeping the rules,” that is the list I currently adhere to, I feel pretty good. And when I fail, I can feel pretty bad. Rule-keeping in this group was the path to heaven.
Jesus came to set captives free. I think he was referring to captives of religion. He didn’t see much value in the religious practices that were considered of great value among the institutional leaders of his day. Ostentatious performance of good works was its own reward as far as Jesus was concerned. He declared that he was the embodiment of truth, and that the “truth shall set you free.”
I believe that Jesus also encouraged a lifestyle that was less connected to the material things of this world, you know, the things that we worry so much about. His words:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. — Matthew 6: 25-34 NLT via BibleGateway.com
In that way, following Jesus, depending on God as your life source, if one can truly get into the Jesus mindset, means being free from worry, free to live a life of love. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is the essence of good news. So why not declare today as your “Dependence Day?” The day when you say for the first time, or say it again, I am a follower of Jesus and I will depend on him. I am setting aside the chains of captivity to religion. I am setting aside the chains of worry about the material things I need. Today I am declaring my freedom as a follower of Jesus!