Pursuit of Liberty

May 8, 2024 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Brenda W. McIntyre 

As the Fourth of July approaches, citizens across the country are looking forward to picnics, firework displays, parades, barbecues, or just a leisurely day away from the demands of work.  Independence Day is more than an opportunity for family and friends to gather for fun, food, and festivities – it is a celebration to commemorate the courage and faith of our founding fathers in their pursuit of liberty and the freedom to choose how they would worship God.

Imagine how you would feel if you lived in a place where the government required every citizen to attend church each week with no freedom to choose what to believe or how to worship.  Our forefathers living in England in the 16th and 17th centuries experienced that type of oppression.  The 1559 Act of Uniformity made it illegal not to attend official Church of England services.  Fines were imposed for each missed Sunday.  People who refused to give up their personal beliefs for the beliefs of the state church suffered penalties ranging from imprisonment to being tortured and put to death.

Stepping out on faith, 102 brave men, and women left their homes behind and boarded the Mayflower on September 6, 1620.  They fled Great Britain in search of religious freedom.  Their action reminds me of the apostles who left their homes and families and followed Jesus.  The book of Matthew relates the story of Jesus calling the disciples.  Matthew 4:18–22 says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.  At once they left their nets and followed him.  Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.  Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

For two months the passengers on the Mayflower endured the hardships of the trans-Atlantic voyage and bravely faced the new world.  They had great faith that the Father would carry them safely across the sea to a place where they could begin new lives and no longer be in bondage to the Church of England.  Known as the Pilgrims, this group was brought together by a common belief that their worship should be organized independently of a central state church.  Galatians 5:1 states, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  One courageous Pilgrim couple set out on the journey from England knowing their child would be born at sea.  Talk about placing your faith in the hands of God!

Some things did not change in the new world, however – the King of England still ruled over the colonists.  Over time they set forth a list of grievances against the King.  A declaration was drawn up setting the thirteen colonies on the road to religious freedom as a sovereign nation independent from the mother land.  The Independence Day holiday was first observed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776 with bells ringing, bands playing and the reading of the Declaration of Independence.  This Fourth of July will be observed similarly across the United States – a wonderful reminder that our great country was founded on Christian principles and that we can stand firm and choose the way we will worship!

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