Father James Keller, the founder of The Christophers, witnessed some dark days during his lifetime, including World War II and the millions of lives it cost. It gave him a deep appreciation for the freedoms and responsibilities we have here in the U.S.A. So with July 4th weekend upon us, as we relax at the beach or chow down at barbecues, let’s take a brief look at the history of this date and why we celebrate the uniqueness of the American experiment.
Founding father John Adams, for instance, knew that he and his colleagues had accomplished something historic when they declared their independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, and then finally approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. In a letter to his wife Abigail, Adams stated:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other….You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.”
Another founding father, Benjamin Franklin, also offered valuable insights about government and the citizenry. Some of his most famous statements include:
1) “A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.”
2) “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt…they have more need of masters.”
3) “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
4) “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.”
In light of Adams’ and Franklin’s thoughts, what are some good ways to celebrate Independence Day without forgetting about the holiday’s true meaning? Guideposts magazine’s Bob Hostetler offered several suggestions for working prayer into your festivities:
1) “When you see the ‘Stars and Stripes,’ don’t just cheer or salute; give thanks for your freedom even as you pray for those who don’t enjoy the same freedoms you do.”
2) “If you watch a parade, let the procession remind you…of the cost of freedom in the past and beauty of freedom in the present. Then pray for the spread of freedom in the future.”
3) “When you see military uniforms, give thanks for those who have sacrificed in the past and serve in the present to obtain and protect the freedoms you enjoy. But pray also for peace among nations and all people.”
4) “If you indulge in a holiday cookout…say a prayer of thanks to God for the hot dogs, chips, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. But also ask Him to bless and prosper those farmers, grocers, and others who helped bring the food to your table.”
So to sum it all up: as you celebrate the red, white, and blue, say thanks for the blessings that God has brought to you.