DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’m from another country and am visiting some of my relatives here who are in graduate school. I asked them what your festival on July 4 means, but they were not sure. Does it have something to do with your Christian religion? — V.N.
DEAR V.N.: July Fourth commemorates the day in 1776 that our nation declared itself to be independent, no longer a colony of England. On that date, a number of our leading citizens signed what is known as the Declaration of Independence, stating our determination to become a free country.
Our independence did not come easily; only after several difficult years of war would it finally be won. Nor were our first years as a nation free from problems and controversies (as is still true). But our forefathers were determined to establish a free and democratic system of government, and the Declaration of Independence (together with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights) became the foundation for this. They have stood the test of time, and on July Fourth we give thanks for the wisdom and faith and courage of those leaders.
Although it is not a religious holiday like Christmas or Easter, for many Americans July Fourth is a time to reflect on God’s goodness to us as a nation. Molded into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (which proclaimed our independence) are these words from the Bible: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). Our legal system reflects our Judeo-Christian roots.
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While we look with gratitude to the past on this July Fourth, may we also look in faith to the future, and commit it and our lives to God and his will. The ancient words of the Psalmist are still true: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).
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