As America celebrates her independence, we would be wise to acknowledge the heritage that brought our country such great freedom and blessing. Those principles are rooted in biblical truth and transcend every border, generation and ethnicity. Anyone who implements them will find the favor of the Lord.
The Bible says, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2, NAS) If you look around the world, you will witness the truth in the latter part of that adage. The current pain and strife under Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Kim Jong-il in North Korea, Muammar Qadaffi in Libya, and others in similar situations reveal the “groaning” of the people as they suffer under the oppression of blatantly evil rulers. Despite the real hardships felt in countries with more pervasive Christianity, there is clearly more freedom and opportunity.
Notice that the first part of the proverb does not say, “When a righteous leader reigns,” but “When the righteous increase….” Free nations don’t necessarily have to be led by a righteous person, although that is certainly better and more desirable. What nations desperately need is an increase in righteous people.
Jesus told his followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, NAS) It’s easy to focus on the “go” part of that and imagine it’s a calling to overseas mission work. While it is certainly inclusive of that, the real call to action is in the phrase “make disciples.” This is something we do in “all the nations,” including our own. There is no believer who cannot fulfill this command. When we do, the righteous increase and the people are happier.
So what constitutes a more righteous people? It certainly does not mean self-righteousness. Our only authentic righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. When people choose to serve Him, the righteous increase. That’s why we make disciples. In addition, righteousness is not religiousness. Just look at the hard-line Islamic republic in Iran, the predominantly-Catholic Mexico, or the 95-percent Buddhist nation of Thailand. All suffer, whether from violence, oppression, human trafficking, poverty or other social ills. The level of blessing in any country directly correlates to the level of genuine Christian influence among the people, not the manmade institutions designed to define God.
America was not founded on a person or party. It was founded on the principles announced in the Declaration of Independence, spelled out in the Constitution and enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The repeated references to “our Creator” and “Divine Providence” distinctly set these documents apart from purely secular decrees.
At the same time, our founding fathers understood the dangers of a government controlled by a particular religious group or institution. That is why they wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” There were already disagreements between Presbyterians, Quakers, Anglicans, Congregationalists and other denominations. None wanted to be forced to worship and believe exactly the same, nor did they want their freedom abridged, but there was no debate about the source of our freedom or the wisdom available from God Almighty. For them, the question was not whether God’s name would be allowed in public, but whether citizens would have the freedom to acknowledge God in their own way. The true intention is freedom of religion, not the poisonous fraud of freedom from religion.
Today, the principalities of intolerance are out in full force. Just this week, news surfaced that our federal government has been ordering private citizens to refrain from saying “God bless you” to grief-stricken families at soldiers’ funerals. In the name of liberty, this type of religious prohibition must be stopped. There are several legitimate and beneficial ways to protect our freedom, but there is one that exceeds them all in effectiveness and eternal significance: making disciples.
This holiday, we celebrate our independence, but we must fight every day to keep it. To this end, the best defense of liberty is a proactive promotion of it. And the best way to share freedom is to connect individuals with the One who shows us the truth that sets us free.