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The revolution ended today—in 1784: A lesson from the past on how to build a better future

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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On January 14, 1784, the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris, signaling the end of the Revolutionary War and the start of the United States of America. 

While the war had been over for several months by that point, the future of the country was still very much undecided. Would the states be able to coexist as one people? Would the democratic experiment devolve into chaos and ruin? Could America coexist on the same continent as the Empire with whom they’d spent the last eight years fighting? 

In many ways, the Treaty set out to answer those questions and, in so doing, helped establish a clear path forward for the new nation. 

In addition to granting formal recognition of the United States as a sovereign, independent country, the agreement also expanded the US borders and paved the way for westward expansion while establishing clear boundaries with Britain. 

The treaty was also designed, however, to help bring peace to the people. 

During the war, there were many who remained loyal to England but wanted to stay in America once the fighting stopped. To help ease their transition, Congress agreed to recommend that the states treat them fairly and return any property that had been confiscated during the war. 

While that didn’t always happen, the fact that both parties agreed to make it a priority shows that our founding fathers valued moving forward more than exacting vengeance for any perceived wrongs from the past. 

That’s not always how such treaties work, however. 

After World War I, for example, the Treaty of Versailles was designed more to punish Germany than to provide a lasting peace, and the result was an even costlier war a few decades later. Had the American delegation pursued a similar path, it’s unlikely our nation would resemble what it is today. 

Learning from the past

While our nation is not currently at war, recent events have highlighted the fact that we now stand at a crossroads where people on both sides of the political aisle face a similar choice to that of our founding fathers some 237 years ago. 

Will we hold onto the pain and grudges of the past, or will we focus instead on forging a better path forward? 

As Christians, that should be an easy choice for us. Scripture is clear that God calls us to repent when we’ve been in the wrong (Matthew 5:23–24) and forgive when we’ve been wronged (Colossians 3:13). How we move forward from this election, regardless of whether or not you agree with the outcomes, will reverberate in our culture for years to come. 

The lost around us are watching and, in many cases, expecting us to make the wrong choice with regards to which path we will choose. The good news is that that expectation presents a unique and important opportunity if we will choose to take advantage of it. 

One of the ways in which I believe God is looking to redeem the current state of our culture is by making it easier than it’s been in a very long time for Christians to stand out for something good rather than something bad. When Judeo-Christian values were largely the norm, simply living in accordance with Christ’s teachings was easy to ignore. 

But that’s no longer the case. Now it really doesn’t take much to stand out if we simply choose to extend God’s love and grace to those around us. 

What we choose to do with that opportunity will go a long way toward defining the trajectory of the church in America and the eternal trajectory of the lost God brings across our path. 

So let go of the past and choose instead to focus your energy and passions on living for Christ in the days to come.

Making that choice may not be easy, but it is vital to showing our faith’s continued relevance and authenticity to a culture that has increasingly discounted both. 

Will you do your part today?