A blessed Fourth of July to my country and fellow citizens!  This day marks the birth of the United States as a free nation, determined not to suffer tyranny any longer.  It is a nation founded on the belief that man is free by nature and by the dignity bestowed upon him by his Creator.

Of course, like all human endeavors, the reality has not fully lived up to the ideal.  Many of the same men who declared that this was a free nation and that all men were created equal were also slave owners.  The nation was less than a century old when a massive civil war broke out, bringing extreme misery to people on both sides.  People who came here from many other nations in search of relief from poverty, famine, war, oppression, and other forms of distress and injustice often found themselves suffering from the very same things after they’d arrived here.  From the beginning of this nation right up until this very day, some people have been less free and less equal than others.  Of course, this is not only the reality of the United States; it is the reality of the entire fallen world.

But there is another reality both in this country and in this world.  A reality made up of saints and heroes and leaders and peacemakers and ordinary people winning everyday victories over afflictions great and small, public and private.  Mercy, justice, charity, steadfastness, resourcefulness, cooperation, humility, gratitude, grace, steadfastness, reason, ingenuity–these are some of the countless threads that make up the fabric of this reality.  And while this reality may seem more feeble than the other, though it may at times seem non-existent, this reality has in fact underlain all of human history.  While it may be difficult to discern among immediate circumstances, we will always find when we look back that it stretches away in a great swathe.  Oh, it may be battered and torn in some places, but in others it shines forth radiantly and completely intact.

What condition it will be in moving forward is for us to decide.  We always have a choice–always–which fabric we will lay down.  In times when other people are intent to impose the more dismal reality over us, even if they are able to do so in a very powerful way, even then, we still have a choice!  We have the choice to strive to overcome it!  The Founding Fathers were not wrong about man’s freedom and dignity.  They are ours by nature, and we exercise them every time we make a choice which path we will follow and every time we choose to stand against adversity!

It doesn’t matter if we be in chains or in prison, if we be poor or hungry, young or old, rich or poor, male or female–we still have our freedom and dignity.  Race doesn’t determine it, nor ethnicity.  No circumstance in this world determines it.  Our own choices and deeds determine it, and the eyes of our God, who alone can see clearly what is occurring inside a person.  A man may appear to others to be utterly worthless, defeated, and a failure–Christ appeared that way as He hanged dead upon the cross.  But it wasn’t true of Him, and it needn’t be true of us.  Because of Him, even death itself is nothing but a final obstacle to overcome!

Let us declare our independence from the harsh ways and harsh circumstances of the world–we may not be able to change them, at least not on the surface, but we can nevertheless declare independence from them and refuse to serve them.  Let us declare our independence from the Tyrant who seeks the deception, degradation, and eternal ruin of our souls, and from all who have chosen to serve him.  Let us declare our independence from all that troubles, tempts, misleads, and holds us captive.  Let us strive to become saints, heroes, leaders, peacemakers, and victors no matter what happens or who tries to exert power over us.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are free to us all.  Nobody can give them to us or take them away from us.  We have only to choose them and strive for them.