Two hundred and forty years ago, a gunshot ripped across a small stretch of grass. That shot changed the course of the world. Two hundred and thirty nine years ago, a document of defiance was authored and distributed.
The world would never be the same. The reverberations of the event we celebrated yesterday with our own explosions in the sky have altered world history in tremendous ways – for good and bad.
All birth is accompanied by blood, and the birth of the American nation was no different. The blood of rage, the blood of sacrifice. Blood shed to forge a society which would be unlike any other in the world. A nation independent and free.
We naturally celebrate this independence. We rightly honor those who suffered and sacrificed for our sake. Independence is a precious gift that bestows freedom to worship, freedom to speak, freedom to live. History is a flipbook full of the devastating alternative. Oppression and tyranny destroy the soul; independence gives room to thrive.
But independence is not an end. It is an opportunity.
That we have the freedom to choose is a gift indeed, but it is up to the human soul to choose well. The great American experiment is only as good as its free men and women. If American souls be corrupt, then the American soul will surely turn black.
Nearly two thousand years ago a scream left the lungs of a tortured man.
Thud went the the hammer. Slice went the nails. Body arching with pain. And in the darkness, a deeper, inexpressible agony. The agony of separation. The trauma of judgment.
Bludgeoned and shredded, he hung, stretched out and gasping, on rough-hewn planks. Gathering his dying breath, He cried out to His God: “Why have you forsaken me?”
Nearly two thousand years ago another document was authored and delivered to the world. A list. A record of wrongs. An indictment of impossible length. Written on the body of Jesus Christ.
Written in agony. Written in love.
As the last blow of wrath emptied on the Son, He signed His name and said: “It is finished.” In those words, this blood-drenched document of damnation was transformed into a declaration of independence.
Independence is not an end. It is opportunity for fullness, happiness, excellence, creativity. Oppression withholds these from the human soul. Independence is, therefore, good.
But mere opportunity is an intersection with many destinations.
The War of Independence only ever addressed part of the problem. It gave us the intersection. But Jesus Christ reaches into our souls, forging the freedom that reigns even under political oppression.
We are right to celebrate our American independence. It would be cynical and ungrateful for us not to. But it will only ever be an echo of the final freedom that truly liberates.
Fly the flag. Sing the anthems. But do not give your hope to echoes. Hear the anthem of heaven; tune your heart to that song; sing of the freedom that will stretch beyond the day the American experiment has crumbled away.