“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend -them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil, and danger, and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter, we are in most danger at present. Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity, and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former for the sake of the latter. Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times more than ever calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that “if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom!” It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers in the event!”
Those words seem fitting for our time. Only they were written in October 1771 by Samuel Adams.
It occurred to me that we are always in some sort of peril. Personally, corporately, nationally. We believe that looming just over the horizon is the end of things as we know them. In that belief, we are right. Not in the way we imagine, but rather in the reality that change is ever present, entropy is real and rust never sleeps. Things as we know them are coming to an end. They always are.
The world is an uncertain and dangerous place. We strive to reduce the felt risk in any way we can. I say “felt” risk, because in most cases we cannot reduce the actual risk we face. We are not in control. The “event”, as Adams put it, that will affect us is most likely unknown and unstoppable. We don’t want to think about that. It makes us uncomfortable and uneasy.
My family loves the Fourth of July. For as long as Americans can remember, the nation has celebrated the Fourth of July by staging grand fireworks shows in public squares and lighting smaller displays (in our case not much smaller) at home. Interestingly, we commemorate Independence Day by setting off thousands of small explosions because John Adams wanted us to. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, he envisioned fireworks as a part of the festivities. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the occasion should be commemorated;
“with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that in Philadelphia, “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” The paper noted that “Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”
You can be sure that the Hill family will be commemorating our independence with “illuminations” (that’s fancy for blowing things up) and the face of joy and gladness will be widespread (you can also bet that the moms will be calling for order and decorum as we do.)
On the Fourth of July we celebrate things like freedom, patriotism, liberty and of course our right to blow ourselves up. Sometimes we think that maintaining or restoring some seemingly lost cultural or national construct will put things right again. Unfortunately, things have never been right and they aren’t going to be. The world and even our nation were just as messed up in Adam’s time as they are now.
I am not suggesting that we lay down and give up. Striving for what is moral and good is always better than giving in or going along. What I am suggesting is that no matter how hard we try, there will never be any safety in the kingdoms of this world. The only place I can turn that offers to really remove the risk I face is Jesus.
In Ephesians Paul reminds us, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” That’s the bad news. We are fighting spiritual forces. Unseen forces. Massive, organized and well armed forces.
Paul also reminds us that we can, “be enlightened to know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” That’s the good news! The real fight is in the spiritual realm and Jesus has all the authority and power there (and is already the victor.)
Back here on earth, if I am a citizen of the kingdom of God, I do not have to worry about the petty disturbances in the temporal world. They do impact me, sometimes painfully and tragically, but they are not eternal and they ultimately answer to the one true King.
As we celebrate our freedom from a type of earthly tyranny, I hope each of you can celebrate your freedom from eternal tyranny. The world as we know it is coming to an end. That’s ok with me, because I know what will be put in its place someday. Until then we will keep celebrating the little victories as we wait for the ultimate one.
Be safe this holiday as you enjoy your freedom. Remember, safety is the Kimray Way.