On Monday, September 17, 2012, we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution.
The turmoil in much of the world last week, along with remembrances of the 2001 terrorist attacks and murders on American soil September 11, are in many ways vivid reminders that we live in an exceptional nation.
The freedoms we have in America are unusual in our world, and the ideas our nation is based on are worthy of defending – not only militarily but also with our words and actions.
Compared to the rest of the world today, and really, compared to the experience of most humans for thousands of years, most of us in America have lived our entire lives with levels of peace and prosperity unprecedented in human history.
That is not an accident, but is largely a result of the choices made by America’s Founders more than two centuries ago.
When we say America is an exceptional nation, we should be clear on what it means, and what it doesn’t mean:
It does not mean America is perfect or above criticism.
It certainly does not mean that the people of America are somehow more worthy of blessings than the people of other nations, or that we are somehow intrinsically better than other people – that would be unbiblical and wrong.
What it does mean is that the ideas America was founded on – the notion that all men are created equal, that our rights come from God, not government, that the power of government should be limited and separated between various branches – are exceptional ideas.
And what becomes equally clear as we read the writings of our Founding Fathers is this – these ideas are consistent with and in many ways inspired and informed by biblical truth.
President John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution is made for a moral and religious people, and is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Obviously the converse is true – if we cease to be committed to principles of virtue and limited government, and if we allow our Constitution to be ignored or overridden by presidential executive orders, judicial activism or congressional activism outside the scope of federal authority – then we are in danger of losing the liberties so many have died to preserve.
I want to encourage everyone this week to take a few moments and read our Constitution: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html. Understanding what is required of us as citizens of these United States is essential to good citizenship.
We are called as Christ followers to not only pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2), but also to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17.)
In America, in a self-governing society, “we the people” are Caesar. Understanding our constitutional rights and participating in this self-governing, exceptional society by helping to choose leaders who understand America’s foundational principles, are an important part of our civic and biblical responsibilities.
It is my prayer that 225 years from now, we will still be celebrating the “miracle at Philadelphia” -- and that the United States will still be seeking to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”