The 56 men who gathered in Philadelphia on a sweltering July 4 in 1776 to sign the Declaration of Independence were doing more than proclaiming their break with King George III of England. In putting their names to that document, they were putting their very lives and livelihoods on the line.
Their signatures were all the proof needed to charge them with treason against the Crown, which was a capital offense. And even if they were never caught, those signers stood to lose everything if their rebellion were crushed. John Hancock of Massachusetts was considered the wealthiest man in New England. The brothers Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee of Virginia were among the largest landowners in that colony. Many of the others were successful lawyers or businessmen. Yet they were willing to risk all they had for one another and a cause larger than themselves, immortalized in the last sentence of the document: “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.” Ben Franklin understood the stakes and put it a bit more trenchantly when he said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
These men counted the cost and knew that they were potentially sacrificing everything: wealth, family, country, and even their own lives. Compare that to Jesus’ call to a life of discipleship in Luke 14:26-27: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (NIV).
Anyone who will follow Christ must be willing to lose even his own family for Christ’s sake. He must be willing to give up his own life to share in the same death as Christ. But this is not something to take up lightly, on the spur of the moment. Jesus continues:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and was not able to finish.” … In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple (vv. 28-30, 33).
As you grill your burgers and enjoy the fireworks this Fourth of July, remember the tremendous risks taken and sacrifices made by our Founding Fathers. And as you celebrate the freedom they bequeathed to us, remember too the sacrifice of our Savior to set you free. At the same time, consider well the risks and sacrifices you might face to follow Him. Know that in the end, as with our Founding Fathers, it is all worth it.
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