This month we celebrate Independence Day, July 4th. As you know, this date commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress, which declared the original thirteen American colonies a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire. And you also know that July 4th closely associates with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, various political speeches, and other activities. What you may not know about July 4th, however, is an interesting story in our nation‘s history regarding two notable Founding Fathers of our country as described in an article of The Gathering Blog entitled Forgetting the Little that Divides.
In this blog, a man named Fred Smith writes:
“Two devoted friends and brilliant minds—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—fell out with each other over politics, personal slights, and both feeling betrayed by the other. The feud not only embittered both, causing them to abandon all correspondence and relationship of any kind for many years, but it troubled their closest companions who could not imagine these giants of the Revolution becoming estranged for the rest of their lives.
In 1809, a mutual signer of the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush, had a dream about the two former Presidents, wrote it down, and sent it to both men. In the dream he saw the alienated statesmen renew their friendship and begin corresponding with each other. John Adams, again in the dream, addressed a short letter to Thomas Jefferson, and Jefferson responded. These two brief letters were ‘followed by a correspondence of several years in which they mutually reviewed the scenes of business in which they had been engaged, and candidly acknowledged to each other all the errors of opinion and conduct into which they had fallen during the time they filled the same station in the service of their country.‘ Both Jefferson and Adams politely but separately acknowledged their friend’s account of the dream and thought no more about it.
Three years later, at Rush’s urging, Thomas Jefferson sent a very tentative letter to John Adams who responded with a guarded reply. One letter followed another until John Adams wrote to Jefferson on July 15, 1813: ‘Never mind it, my dear Sir, if I write four letters to your one; your one is worth more than my four … You and I ought not to die, before we have explained ourselves to each other.’
Bitter enemies prodded by a friend’s dream were brought back together for the last several years of their lives until they died—both on the same day and only three hours apart: July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.”
Isn‘t it interesting how reality is sometimes stranger than fiction? Interesting also isn‘t it how two mega names in the founding of America‘s freedom could be enslaved for a time to bitterness, find freedom again in renewed relationship, and even share a death date…a day of national freedom celebration? This story surrounding two Founding Fathers of our nation and their connection to Independence Day and the very meaning of the Fourth of July itself demonstrate at least four lessons about freedom we should consider and apply to our Christian lives this month:
- We should be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States. Our country has its problems like all others, but undoubtedly the USA is the greatest and most free nation on the planet. So, use that Fourth of July picnic or family get-together to celebrate being an American with appreciation, pride, and joy!
- We should also enjoy the freedoms we have through faith in Christ, not only our political freedom, but more importantly the freedom we have from enslavement to sin to live godly and to look forward to eternity. Galatians 5:1a says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” So live free!
- We must not become apathetic and become enslaved to bitterness, like Jefferson and Adams, or any other sin that causes us to live in opposition to and in contradiction of the freedom we have in Christ. In particular, if we are at odds with another believer, we should exercise our Christian freedom to attempt to restore this relationship as soon as possible. Galatians 5:13a says: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.” So stay alert!
- The freedom we demonstrate as believers in Jesus and as American citizens should be marked overwhelmingly by love for Christians as well as our neighbors who surround us wherever we may be. Galatians 5:13b-15 says: “…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” So live love!
Have a great Fourth of July celebration and a great month celebrating Jesus and the freedom he richly provides!
Your friend & Pastor,