Did you know that our Founding Fathers didn’t actually declare independence on July 4, 1776? That actually happened two days before, on July 2. That day, after fierce dialogue, including a powerful speech from John Adams, they passed a motion, with only one dissenter, to declare independence from England. In fact, Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that future generations of Americans would remember July 2 as the greatest day in our nation’s history. The Fathers didn’t even sign the declaration on July 4…that didn’t actually happen until August 2. But on July 4, they approved the final wording of Jefferson’s document. Immediately, copies later known as The Dunlap Broadsides were printed and sent to every Colony in our land. They were headed with the date, July 4, which is one reason we associate that day with our freedom.
Those first copies of the declaration had one name printed on them; it was the name of the President of the Continental Congress. It was the name of the man who was first to sign the copy of the declaration on August 2 (which is the copy in our National Archives today). That is quite possibly the most iconic signature of all time, so large and flamboyant that today we call signatures by that man’s name: John Hancock. Who was this man who was so proud of his name? Hancock was one of the richest men in America. Like all of the Fathers, he had a lot to lose. It’s one thing to complain about taxes and philosophize about freedom from tyranny; but when they signed their names to that document, they went from being political activists to traitors against their nation. They were betting their collective fates on a tiny band of militias against the most powerful army on Earth. Their outrageous boldness changed the world.
Several times, Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will save it.” If you spend enough time in church, it’s easy to say the right things, to sound committed to Christ. But our Lord isn’t looking for men and women who know how to play the part. He is creating disciples. He is drafting revolutionaries. You and I should start every day by boldly declaring our independence from the values of this world, from the dictates of our own selfish desires and ambitions. We should remind ourselves, “Today, I serve my King…that is true freedom.” And that is how the world truly gets changed.