You know how when some little speck that was floating around or, perhaps, the result of some rogue particle from something your were doing gets in your eye, it’s either irritating or killing? It suddenly it takes all of your attention whether or not you have time for it. Despite the pain and distraction, all of your attention is sometimes a necessary thing, possibly even a very good thing.
As we celebrate freedom this 4th of July, there will be picnics and flags, parades and fireworks. We can celebrate because others sacrificed. Through the heroic efforts of our American forefathers, our country liberated itself from the rule of King George III and founded a nation with representation of its citizenry in government. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. I wonder if anyone’s hand was shaking when he signed that declaration? Those men, those women, those families, paid a steep price; a cost we would do well to consider.
They stood firm for what was right and true. Truth? Now there’s something that seems a bit slippery these days. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states, 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. -That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Note those rights don’t come from government, they come from God. Government simply administers them. (So, as an aside here, things justly termed “entitlements” such as health care or even education are helpful and good to have, but to call them “rights” denigrates the true meaning of the word.)
Our nation has been on a journey for awhile now, traveling a twisting road of right and wrong, true and false. Words like justice, fair, right, tolerance, and even love have undergone a turn in the spin cycle. They’ve become twisted, ragged, and unrecognizable.
And, my fellow citizens, this nation under God finds itself at a well-worn place. We’re on the threshing floor where the grain is separated from the husks and chaff, truth from lies, if you will. Winnowing forks are tossing the mixture into the air where the chaff is blown away leaving only what is usable and good. I hope we get a little bit of something in our eye, even if it causes distraction or pain, and I hope that chaff in our eye draws our attention to the truth. I hope you and I are left on the floor rather than being swept away by the wind.
In 1861, Julia Ward Howe, after visiting a camp of the Union Army, wrote a poem. It was published in 1862. The Battle Hymn of the Republic says, in part: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored and He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.
This Independence Day I’ll eat barbecue, display the Stars and Stripes, and celebrate along with everyone else. But I’ll also be thinking: It’s great here on the threshing floor! Look! There goes another long-held assumption into the wind! Why, yes. I do see how some were blinded by this person or by that assertion; but things are clearing up now. The chaff won’t be here forever.
Stand firm for what is right and true. You’re in good company. And look up. You never know what you’ll see next.
Declaration of Independence; Luke 3:17, Hosea 13:3; The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe, public domain; Image: Wikimedia commons; public domain 800px-Era_agrícola-(threshing_floor)