Declaration of Independence, the founding charter of our nation, is one the
greatest assertions of human rights and dignity ever written. Its moral
argument for liberty, equality, and responsibility rings as true
today as did in 1776.
have to go back to, perhaps, Jesus�s Sermon on the Mount to find a
declaration more steeped in self-evident truths.
In fact, the two bear many similarities. They
both speak deep, hopeful truths about the nature of man in language so
clear and inspiring that they have literally changed the world every day
since they were first delivered.
And, perhaps often overlooked, they were in fact both merely
introductions, not conclusions.
The Sermon on the Mount is at the beginning of Matthew�s
Gospel, not the end. The Declaration of Independence was signed five
years before the Battle of Yorktown, and seven years before the
Revolutionary War officially ended.
Both two millennia ago and two centuries ago, identifying human
rights was only the beginning of the story. Whether following in the
footsteps of Christ or reviewing the experiences of America�s founding
generation, this is a crucially important lesson.
The lesson is that with rights come
responsibilities. Rights are only the beginning.
The rest of the story involves what we do with
those rights. This is especially so in America today.
self-government is not just a political system; it must also be a personal
ethic. We can govern ourselves as a nation only to the extent that we
govern ourselves as individuals. An assertion of rights is empty
without a corresponding acceptance of
The rights we enjoy are vast and significant. Our government
recognizes that we are created with the God-given rights of life, liberty,
and the pursuit happiness.
Because our rights are
endowed by our Creator, our duty is to serve Him. And of course, the
way we serve our God is by serving our neighbor.
rights are the beginning of the story. Service: that is the rest of the
In this light, we can begin to see more clearly
exactly what it is we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
considered, independence, liberty, and equality are not simply moral
principles; they are moral challenges. So you�re free � what are you
going to do with your freedom?
The challenge issued to us, two
millennia ago in Galilee, is to be a light on a hill, to provide comfort
to the needy, to repair the world one day and one decision at a time.
The great gift the Founding Fathers gave us two
centuries ago in Philadelphia is a nation where success depends on
Our free enterprise economy takes a lot of criticism for
promoting greed, materialism, and competition. But no matter who you are
or what you�re seeking, the first question anyone in our economy must
ask is: how can I help?
Businesses do not survive unless
they take care of their customers, their suppliers, their employees,
and their neighborhoods.
The very same process is at work every
day in our voluntary civil society: our civic, charitable, religious,
and social organizations do not survive unless they succeed in
achieving their objectives.
Both in our free-enterprise economy
and our voluntary civil society, success in America is ultimately
based not on competition, but cooperation. We look out for ourselves by
looking out for everyone else.
Freedom, properly understood,
doesn�t mean you�re on your own. It means �we�re all in this together.�
As it is with our economy and our civil society, so it is with our
republic as well.
On Independence Day, as we celebrate with
fireworks, parades, and snow cones, we also recognize this annual event as
an opportunity to cherish the God-given rights that make us free,
strong, and able to carry out our responsibility to do God�s work on the
Let us stand
together as the watchman on the tower, the city on the hill, the
candle that must not be hid under a bushel, and the salt of the earth.
As Americans, we have been born with God-given rights which, if
properly understood and righteously asserted, will enable us to continue
to establish this nation as the world�s last great