In July of 1776 the American Congress approved the Declaration of the Independence of the 13 United States of America. One of the key figures behind the Declaration was Thomas Jefferson, whose writing in "Defense of Liberty and Rights of Man" was the intellectual force behind the Revolution. Jefferson distilled many of his ideas in the Declaration itself when he wrote the following familiar lines:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…"
Of course, these are the more famous words of the Declaration but there is another part that is equally important but less well knows. Jefferson goes on to say:
"…that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness."
On this July 4th celebration, as a Christian and an American, I would like to make a few comments about Jefferson's ideas that echo as true today as they did over 200 years ago when he penned them.
1. Good ideas are powerful
Jefferson played a key role in the American Revolution because he was able to crystallize and express an idea that burned in the hearts of the people who had built this young nation. At the time, America was outgunned and outnumbered by the British, but it had a better idea for social progress than its old world cousins, and that is what made the difference in the end.
The "idea" of America, where every person could pursue individual happiness in freedom with the actual support of its government was so superior to the stifling grip of feudal Europe that when the spirit of the Declaration was set loose, no political or social or military force could stop it.
The old maxim is true, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." In 1776 the idea of "freedom" and safety from one's enemies and one's own government permitting the pursuit of individual happiness, all enshrined in law, was an idea whose moment had come and over 200 years later we are still celebrating its arrival.
2. Good ideas produce good results
There have been a lot of powerful ideas that have affected the world in the last 200 years, but not all of them have had good results:
- Friedrich Nietzsche produced the powerful idea that man should control his own destiny and the more powerful the man, the better the destiny. This idea was hijacked by the Nazis in Germany as they tried to build a super race and create a better destiny; WWII was the result.
- Karl Marx had the great idea of a social utopia where there would be no rich or poor, where all could be equally shared and managed by a central government. This led to 75 years of Communist aggression and misery for untold millions.
So as you can see, not all powerful ideas produce a good result. But the idea of a government elected by the people, and charged with protecting the safety and freedom of the people; the idea that individual life is sacred; the idea to develop laws to maintain and promote the social and moral fabric of a nation; the idea that the people have a legal right and duty to change a government so that it will preserve these basic freedoms and rights; these were good ideas and the proof is that despite the imperfect ways these ideas have been carried out, this nation still has the greatest wealth potential; has made the greatest progress; is the most desired location for immigration from other nations.
That America is the nation most envied for its wealth and success is due to the fact that it is based on a powerful and good idea.
3. Good ideas have a good source
Jefferson as well as most of the founding fathers of this nation were men who believed in God and knew their Bibles. Most of the key ideas in the Constitution that deal with the way man treats other men are based on Biblical concepts.
Recently the Human Genome project that mapped out the 3.1 billion chemical letters that make up human DNA discovered that the entire human race of 6 Billion people can be traced back to a founding population of some 60,000 people. In other words there is very little genetic variation in the entire history of man. In still other words, this means that genetically speaking, all human beings throughout history have been and are pretty much the same.
How wonderful that 200 years later science has proven Jefferson's words to be true: that all men are created equal. Not just theoretically but now scientifically so.
But what is truly wonderful is that Jefferson and the others had the wisdom to base their good ideas on God's perfect ideas contained in the Bible.
In II Timothy 3:16, Paul the Apostle says that:
Every Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
On this glorious day as we celebrate the ideological foundations of this country, we can also say that "Every Scripture is inspired by God and also profitable for building a great nation."
I hope and I pray that as we go forward we will remember the good ideas that made the USA the country that it has become. I also hope and pray that in charting our future we will go to the source for great ideas, God's Word, whenever we want to inspire us as a people; build us up as a country; protect our borders; renew us as a nation; point us in the direction that we need to go.
We love to say, "God bless America" but let us always remember that the Bible says
How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. (Psalms 144:15)
America began with the great source idea that God was her Lord and she seeded her laws with His Word; America will remain great if she maintains those great ideas and renews her efforts to be the nation whose God is the Lord.