This year, more than ever before, I saw the divisiveness of our country on the 4th of July more than ever before. Many towns, cities and counties cancelled their formal fireworks displays yesterday and have modified their laws to allow private citizens to have their own shows, at least here in central Indiana.
In Carmel, where we live, the city law allows fireworks to be set off from June 29th through July 9th. For that period, with the exception of July 4th, the displays can occur from 5:00 p.m. until two hours past sunset – or about 11:15 pm local time. On the actual 4th, the time extends from 10:00 a.m. until midnight. And just for good measure, fireworks are allowed on New Year’s Eve from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. on January 1st.
Let’s face it, that’s quite a bit of time for grand displays and loud noises. To top it all off, the sales of fireworks is up 300% this year and the newspapers have run stories on how the various sellers of roman candles, firecrackers, sparklers and those expensive mortar type rounds are having a very difficult time keeping them in stock. They are having a banner year – in fact, perhaps the best year ever.
But the newspapers and local social media outlets also tell us that there is a deep divide on the use of fireworks by private citizens. There are restrictions in place to monitor the purchases but that doesn’t seem to be enough. You must be at least 18 years old to purchase, you must be in the presence of an adult if you are under 18 to light them off and you must be on your own property or have the permission of the landowner to use their property.
This legal availability seems to give people the right to do almost anything they want. People have this grand sense of entitlement and there are numerous stories of pictures falling off walls and a home in a nearby neighborhood that was set on fire when massive mortar type rounds were set off last night. We live on a small lake and I couldn’t believe the number of people who set up displays around the water and fired their fireworks without regard for their neighbors.
The opposition to this “freedom” maintains that veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a very difficult time with the explosions and many pets, including our own Hank, are scared to death when the blasts start. We had the family over for a holiday barbecue last night and even had to give Hank anti anxiety pills to cope once the neighborhood shows started.
Out city did have several smaller “official” shows, one of which was down the street from our home. The kids, grandchildren and Janet went to watch while I sat in the master bedroom closet with Hank, trying to keep him as calm as possible – even with his meds. And that brings us to the question of whether or not it is right to create this kind of disturbance for our vets and our beloved pets.
Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. But that doesn’t seem to be the way people think these days. There is bitter disagreement on social media about the joy of children seeing fireworks versus the damage it does to others. There sure isn’t too much grace or mercy when it comes to this subject. And that strikes me as a little odd that people stand behind the words of President John Adams, who believed that the 4th should be celebrated with “illuminations” – especially when there is such an emphatic attempt to destroy statues and most references to the founding fathers of our nation.
The apostle Paul had quite a bit to say on this subject of caring for others. He was a firm believer that kindness to others and respect for their possible limitations should always be considered in these kinds of circumstances. Our verse for tonight affirms his thoughts on this. Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 8:12-13, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”
What Paul is saying is that we should be aware of the situation our fellow brothers and sisters are in. And that we should be considerate when there is a legitimate reason for not doing something. This could mean not drinking, or respecting food limitations of others, or even not shooting off fireworks. My encouragement this evening is that we should all be more aware of our actions and how they impact others. My prayer is that the country can begin to heal and that we will all heed the words of Paul in our daily actions with others. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…