When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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 effect their Safety and Happiness.
Signed on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence declared the decision made only two days earlier when representatives from each of the thirteen colonies voted for independence from Great Britain. Officially, Great Britain formally recognized the sovereign United States of America with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. On each July 4th, the nation celebrates the adoption of the Declaration and the birth of a new nation.
Though the United States of America was not the first to embrace the rule of law, it has definitely become its champion. Unlike other forms of government where those in power can create their own rules and are not subject to them, the rule of law is the principle that the law is supreme and that all citizens, including members of the government, are equally subject to it and equally entitled to its protection.
But, the Declaration of Independence took a huge risk. Read the second paragraph again: “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and whenever any form of government becomes destructive of 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 as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” In other words, the government exists to effect the safety and happiness of the people, and when the people no longer feel that their government is effecting their safety and happiness, then the people have the right to alter or abolish that government.
While those words propelled the thirteen colonies to independence from the abuses of the King of England, they have also created a framework for how Americans interact with the Divine King of Kings. When it appears to the people that the Divine King becomes destructive of the ends of effecting the safety and happiness of the people, the people have a right to institute a new king, to find a new god to serve.
The people of America are taking full advantage of their right to cast off the rule of any government which has become destructive to their ends of safety and happiness. Though the apostles clearly warned us not to use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature (Galatians 5.13), this has become the new declaration of America. The people of America have decided that the biblical standards of morality are archaic. The people of America have decided that the biblical teaching of Christ as the only way to God is intolerant. The people of America have decided that there is a way that seems right to them even though the King of Kings has already told them where it will lead. The people of America have declared their independence.
But for the people of God who call America their home, the story of independence and freedom tells a different story. The people of God have declared independence from the powers of the spiritual forces of darkness. The people of God have declared independence from a life of sin by confession and repentance. The people of God have declared that their safety and happiness is most effected by a new King, a Savior, their Lord. The people of God have given their consent to be forever governed by the Almighty God. In this new King, the people of God have found life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So, as we celebrate our nation’s independence in a few days, may we thank our Creator who has blessed us to live in a land where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is possible for all of mankind. May we rejoice that even the highest leader of the land is subject to the rule of law. And may we ponder how we have exercised our own independence, declaring independence from sin and confessing our eternal allegiance to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.