On July 4th of this month, 245 years ago in Philadelphia, thirteen fledgling colonies became the United States of America with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which reads: “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. 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. “
Although this declaration is mocked and rejected by some in our country, to their shame, the fact remains that fifty-six brave men, many Christians, signed the Declaration of Independence. They knew that in so doing their lives would potentially be endangered . . and they were. Among this courageous lot, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Nine others died in the Revolutionary War. Twelve had their homes sacked, looted, burned, or occupied by the enemy. Two lost their sons in battle. One had two sons captured. Before signing the document, those courageous men no doubt considered the cost, and were willing to endure hardship and even death for the cause in which they believed and held dear. As the persecution of these early American heroes demonstrates, freedom always comes with a price.
The same can be said about salvation in Jesus Christ and the freedoms enjoyed by those who trust in and follow Him.
A saving relationship with Jesus Christ is free but paradoxically comes at great cost, especially to the author and provider of salvation, but potentially also to the receiver of the same. Peter tells us in his first letter that we as Christians were not redeemed or purchased by silver or gold but the precious (i.e., valuable, costly) blood of Jesus, the eternal and sinless Son of God, at the cross (1 Pet. 1:18-21). The cost to Jesus was not only His cross event, but also all that was involved in the humiliation of leaving Heaven and taking human form to accomplish man’s redemption (Phil. 2:6-8). On the other hand, although salvation is free to the believer, Jesus said that following Him will involve sacrifice. As such, people should factor in the cost of following Him before deciding to do so, because the cost may extend to relational hardship and even the loss of one’s own life (Lk 9:23-24; 14:25-33). Again, freedom always comes with a price.
Additionally, freedom also always comes with responsibilities. Citizenship in America from its founding until current day requires certain obligations and duties as a part of the freedoms enjoyed. As Christians, we have responsibilities related to our country as Americans, but also to God as a part of the eternal freedom we have in Christ. We are responsible to grow in our relationship with God through growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18a). We are consequently to demonstrate this growing relationship through spiritual and moral excellence seen in our public lives (1 Pet. 2:12), home lives (1 Tim. 5:8), church lives (Gal. 6:10), and in association with our governing authorities (Matt. 22:21).
Regarding our responsibilities to the last-mentioned governing authorities, in what ways are we as Christians publicly to declare allegiance in Christian patriotism? The Bible says we are to do so in at least three ways:
- Obey submissively (Rom. 13: 1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). We are to be subject to our governing leaders nationally, statewide, and locally as an act of submission to God, even though those authorities may be incompetent, immoral, unreasonable, or any other caveat. Civil disobedience is permissible only when government requires Christians to violate Scripture. At such times we must declare with Peter and the other apostles: “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29), being willing to face punishment and even death if necessary.
- Pray regularly (1 Tim. 2:1-4). We are to pray for our leaders, even those with whom we disagree and perhaps do not like. For what should we pray for them? Let me suggest we pray for their eternal salvation if they are not believers. Furthermore, pray for their moral clarity and wisdom, or alternatively for their removal from office.
- Live righteously (1 Pet. 2:12, 16-17). 14:34 says: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” In Matt. 5:13-16, Jesus said we as Christians are to be salt and light to our onlooking world. Salt serves as a preservative from decay, seasoning for taste, and tends to create thirst. Light illumines the environment. Like salt, we are to serve through our attitudes, speech, and lifestyle as preservatives from public moral decay, as winsome and attractive seasoning giving spiritual spice to those with whom we interact, and as creators of thirst for what we possess in Christ. And like light, we illumine the path to Christ not only through our behavior but also through our witness and teaching. In so doing, others may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
Like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, live courageously, live freely, and most importantly, live for Christ!