In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote “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. We celebrate these words and all of the others that come before and after in the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.
It’s interesting that Thomas Jefferson noted that all men are created equal. Thomas Jefferson lived at a time when people were routinely enslaved. In fact, he owned slaves himself. But, he believed that all men are created equal. God also knows that all men are equal. In Galatians 3:28 He says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God sees us all as His children looking, acting, and being alike. God doesn’t show any partiality concerning His children. He tells us in Romans 2:11 that “…God judges all people in the same way.” He doesn’t pick sides or value one person more than another.
Thomas Jefferson also states that we are given rights by our Creator. He believed that there is a creator. He believed in God. He described himself as a Christian in 1803. And, Jefferson was associated with the Episcopalian Church. Throughout his lifetime and under many different influences, he never wavered from his believe in God. His last words were “I resign myself to God, and my child to my country.” We are in agreement with Jefferson that God exists. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “in the beginning God created the heaven and earth.” We know that God was the creator. And, Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that we were created by the Creator.
He also laid out the rights that were given to us by our God. Thomas Jefferson calls them unalienable Rights which mean they can not be transferred. These rights were given to us by our God and only He can give them away. The Right of Life is given only by God. No other entity can created life from nothing. As much as we accomplish in science, we can not create life from nothing. We can only replicate it from living organisms.
Jefferson also says that we have the Right of Liberty. True liberty can only be found in God. In 2 Corinthians 3:17 He tells us that “now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines liberty as permission especially to go freely within specified limits. True liberty is having the power of choice (permission) while following God’s precepts (specified limits) which are acknowledging Christ as our personal Savior and living for Him.
Many times Liberty is equated with Freedom. In God, freedom means being delivered from the powers of our flesh – that our selfishness can not destroy us. We were bought with a price. Jesus paid that price on Calvary. In Romans 8:2 we are reminded that “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” God restores us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We do not have to dwell in sin.
Thomas Jefferson also reminded us that we have the Right to pursue Happiness. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines happiness as joy. In Nehemiah 8:10 says we should “…neither be sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This reminds us that we can only find true joy in the Lord. And, the joy we find in the Lord gives us our strength. We can fight another battle for God. We can stand for God when all around is evil. We can do all of this because we have happiness which is joy where we find God’s strength. God’s strength keeps us going.
On a final note, Thomas Jefferson is credited with the notion of the separation of Church and State. He expressed this to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Many people are fighting on both sides of this issue today. It is interesting that Jefferson believed that we should all follow Christian doctrine and that there is one God. But, he wanted to ensure that no state, government, or authority could tell us how to worship God. He did not want Baptist to be required to give communion the same way as Catholics. Thomas Jefferson did not want Lutherans to be required to preach and teach the same way as Church of God In Christ. He wanted us to celebrate and worship God in the way that we were called. No limitations. No government intrusion. But, He wanted us to know that God exists. And, God has given us Rights that no one can take away from us.
So, today, we celebrate the birth of our country. While celebrating, remember that God’s standards were used to draft the Declaration of Independence. This fact should call our country, the United State of America, to worship and honor God in fullness on this Fourth of July.