Dear Church,

Outside of Christmas and Easter, July 4th is far and away my favorite holiday. There are so many different reasons why this is true. For over fifteen years, my mom and I have driven to Atlanta on the 4th to run in the Peachtree Road Race. It’s an incredible experience to run the race with 40,000 of your closest friends, and everyone passes under the American flag as we begin the race. After not running the race for the past two years due to COVID, I can’t wait to be back on Peachtree Street again in a few days! While that’s one reason why I love Independence Day, it certainly isn’t the most important.

There is something magical about eating hot dogs and hamburgers surrounded by friends and family. I love to watch my girls as they are enthralled by the fireworks that light up the night sky. I love the parades and the celebration of all things America. But most of all, I love that on this one day, we celebrate the idea of America. We are a nation that isn’t founded on race or ethnicity, but instead a collection of radically different people who believe in a common ideal,

“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.”

As the Founding Fathers gathered to craft the Declaration of Independence, I sometimes wonder if they ever imagined that what they did on that day would change the course of human history. The United States of America has been, and continues to be, a beacon of light and hope to billions of people across the globe, and that is in large part due to the words that were penned on July 4, 1776.

It is my prayer that during this season of celebration, Americans of all stripes could pause for a moment and reflect on the significance of those lofty ideals. What does it look like to live in a land where all people can experience life and liberty? How can we foster a culture where people are free to pursue happiness (at least in the way Jefferson intended, which is very different than modern definitions, but that’s a different topic)? How do we, as followers of Jesus, find our place as “citizens of Heaven” while also being people who love our country? These are the questions that matter. These are the questions that give our life meaning and significance.

So, however you celebrate on the 4th of July, I hope that you will take a moment and give thanks to God for the gift that is the United States of America.

Grace and Peace,

Will