God Uses Imperfect People
It’s the 4th of July. So naturally I was the chosen contributor for today’s blog. Running for office and naming my daughter Liberty has probably guaranteed me a featured column on this blog for every civic-related occasion until the end of time.
Yesterday, I was out working at Cranes Roost in Altamonte for the Red, Hot & Boom firework celebration. It was a perfect illustration of everything that is right and wrong about America.
A diverse group of people descended on Altamonte Springs to celebrate America’s birthday. A multi-ethnic, multi-generational sea of humanity that our Founding Fathers never could have envisioned united in a common celebration represented everything that was right about America.
Of course there were plenty examples of everything that is wrong with America, too. For example, the Altamonte mall traffic. I think that the 436 and I-4 interchange sums up everything that is wrong with America. Also, one of my teenaged volunteers had her iPhone stolen right out of her pocket, by some kid taking an illegitimate shortcut on his own pursuit of happiness.
As I worked the crowd and mingled with the masses, slowly moving through pockets of teenagers, soccer moms and elderly citizens, this thought occurred to me: I wonder if we all realize what we’re celebrating?
Undoubtedly, some of the people in that crowd were in the America-Is-Great-Because-I-Get-Free-Stuff camp. Others were in the America-Is-God’s-Gift-to-the-World camp. Still others were in the Leave-Me-Alone-I’m-Just-Here-for-the-Concert frame of mind. Of course I ran into the token intellectual who faithfully reminded me that God is not a Republican, which greatly tempted me to tell him “true, but the Devil is a Democrat” just to see his reaction.
I’m not sure what frame of mind you are in this Independence Day. Regardless of where you are at or how comfortable you are talking about politics, civics and our American heritage, let me leave you with one thought to ponder this July 4th: you have received so many blessings as a direct result of the men who died, with you in mind, a couple centuries ago.
These were imperfect men to be sure. Last time I checked, there’s only been one perfect man. But God uses imperfect people, and in the 18th century he decided to unite a rag tag band of farmers to defeat the world’s super power and win their independence. He birthed in their hearts a burning desire to fight and die because they believed their sacrifice was necessary for you to be free.
They established a form of government that was quite unlike any others that had been tried before. The source of supreme authority in this new country was not placed in specific people. The founders had just experienced the problems inherent in such a system. Having their religious freedoms suppressed and financial opportunities usurped by unjust taxation motivated them to take up arms and rebel against a ruler who was, in their view, behaving in contradiction with God’s will. They fought a war to free themselves from such an oppressive government and establish a new one. In God’s providence, they succeeded. By granting them success, God established a new country in which the source of supreme authority was not placed in specific people, but located in the collective will of we the People.
The Founding Fathers stated the purpose for their rebellion. “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.”
People should be able to govern themselves, they claimed. In the providence of God, they won their freedom and were able to establish this radically different form of government, in which the ultimate authority was found in the will of the people. Yet, by locating the supreme source of authority in the self-governing will of the people, God did not establish a pure democracy ruled by the sway of majority opinion. The founder’s definition of the will of the people is important. The ‘will’ of the people was defined as the inherent desire of men to be free to pursue God’s common grace gifts of life, liberty and happiness.
All of us have an inherent desire to freely pursue our own lives, to work towards certain purposes and to enjoy the blessings of God’s creation as men and women. In our form of government, this desire (i.e. will) for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is the source of supreme authority. It is this desire which is considered a right under our government, and it alone rules over all as the supreme consideration, the highest priority and greatest dictator of all activity that takes place in our country.
The men and women who founded our country wanted to create a place where people throughout the centuries could be free to speak, to pursue their happiness and to worship and live out their faith without fear. This is what we are celebrating today.
I’d encourage you to take the opportunity to thank God for our country. As imperfect as it is, we have been blessed with freedom. Some people abuse the freedom, while others neglect it. In any event, liberty is not something we should take for granted. Let’s thank God for it this Independence Day.