Today’s guest post has been contributed by my friend and ministry partner, Mark Stevenson, the new president of LIFE International.
As those of us in the United States today celebrate Independence Day, we can still see blessings in a land that is suffering a variety of hurts, conflicts and power plays. When we began this journey 240 years ago, our Declaration of Independence opened this way:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
This substantial statement penned by Thomas Jefferson was the beginning of the revolution from England’s tyrannical rule, and it became an opening for the rest of the world to consider what it meant to be a people with intrinsic value and the ability to choose a new path. An even more famous sentence follows the first:
“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…”
No matter our personal feelings about Jefferson’s belief system and life, these were both freeing words and fighting words that put into motion the things that God had in mind. It was time to discard what was oppressive and to pursue a truth that already existed: God has given man intrinsic rights because man is made in God’s image.
Fast forward about ten generations and consider our current understanding of “independence” and “rights.” As a nation that sought to guarantee certain unalienable rights to its people, we now have a society of individuals who demand guaranteed, uninhibited rights to self-actualization and personal validation. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” often means my life, my liberty, and the pursuit of my happiness. Christians with even a basic understanding of history know that the practice of this style of freedom eventually means that others will suffer oppression or death in the course of its pursuit.
When we serve alongside our partners at LIFE International in various nations to lift up the infinite value of human life, they are often curious about what is going on in our land. Recently I was describing some current events in the American church to a partner in West Africa and he asked, “Aren’t these people Christians? Don’t they read the Scriptures?” While I didn’t have a satisfactory answer to his question at that time, after reflection I suppose the answer is something like this: “Their passion and Gospel rights have been subdued by the tyrant of independent truth, individual preferences, and the pleasing of men and women more than God.”
Followers of Christ declare dependence on Him as freedom, which then gives us the ability to share true liberty with others in this broken world. Let’s continue to “declare the causes which impel us to separation” with the world’s system in order to reflect more of the coming Kingdom of Jesus.