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A WORD FOR TODAY, July 5, 2021
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:9-10, WEB
I’ve never been a huge fan of fireworks. I have gone to the big city shows and joined in the “ooing” and “awing” with the crowds, but the loud noises have always bothered me. I like in a city where the use of fireworks is illegal, though it is ok in the country. The fireworks stands open up for ten days and sell to anyone who visits, although the expectation is that they will use them where it is legal. Unfortunately, most of the people who use them do so where they should not. There are always people in my neighborhood who make noise for days. I’m bothered by them, but I don’t do anything because they are a block away and I don’t know which house is guilty.
Last night was different. There was a huge family gathering at the house just across the street from my house and they were shooting off fireworks that exploded over my house. I don’t like to be the spoil sport, but after about a half hour I couldn’t take anymore. Every explosion rattled my house and set my nerves on edge. My kitties were hiding out of fear. I looked up the number to report illegal use of fireworks, but the fine is $2000 if caught and I wouldn’t want to cause such trouble for my neighbors. I went outside and yelled to them that I hoped they were finished, that we weren’t happy with the noise and the danger. I reminded them that what they were doing was illegal.
There are reasons why these fireworks are illegal in the city. While these smaller fireworks are unlikely to start a fire, accidents can happen and it was my property that was at risk. Our landscaping is dry because it is July in Texas. Another reason why fireworks are illegal in such small places is because people and pets are affected by the noise. We often hear about pets that get upset; some are even lost because they run away from the noise. We don’t realize that the fireworks can harm the wildlife in our neighborhoods. The noise can incite flight response and disorientation of birds which can lead to death. The noise can also affect the hearing of wild animals.
Human beings can be harmed by these fireworks, too. It is especially disturbing for those on the autism spectrum and those with PTSD. The noise can trigger diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. Those who continue their shows well into the early hours of the morning have no respect for their neighbors who have to get up early for work. This morning I learned that there was another danger. The fireworks left heavy smog in the air, pollution that will cause health issues for those with allergies and asthma. The leftover ash can be toxic for both domestic and wild animals. It might seem like a few fireworks are harmless disobedience, especially when we’ve all been so cooped up for so long. I think there were more neighborhood shows because this Fourth of July was the first chance many people have taken to gather with family and friends. Everyone wanted to celebrate. I didn’t want to be the one to spoil the fun, but I’m sure if I was having trouble with the noise and danger, then other neighbors were also.
Thankfully, my neighbors were considerate and they stopped when I asked. I never expected to have such a visceral reaction to fireworks, but it me took more than an hour to stop shaking. It took even longer for one of my cats to reappear. It might seem unnecessary to make a few sparklers illegal, but these laws are meant to protect those for whom they are not harmless.
God’s Law has a purpose, too.
According to the Talmud, which is a Jewish book with the text and commentary of civil and ceremonial law, there are 613 commandments. Those commandments include rules for the priests, for the men and for everyone, and they provide rules for life in community and faith. The bible includes other rules for living, including many commands from Jesus that augment the 613. Perhaps this sounds like a lot of rules, but it is important to understand the reason for Law.
Rules are not meant to be oppressive or burdensome, especially God’s Law. Jesus spoke to this often; He reminded the people of the reason for the Law. It was meant to protect them and their neighbor. It was a sign to help them see and believe and remain in the care of the God who was their Creator and Redeemer. Law was a gift given so that the people would remember God and look to Him always. The stories in the bible show us what happened to the people when the people turned away. He did not punish them, but they suffered the consequences. They broke the relationship with God when they went their own way. The blessed life of the obedient is not a reward for good behavior, but it is effect of a right relationship with God.
The laws about fireworks are there for a reason, and though these reasons might seem insignificant to those who see them as harmless sparklers, they protect people, animals, and property from unexpected harm. There might be 613 rules, or more, but the bottom line is that they are all based in love. Peace and happiness comes to the one who loves: first God and then one another. The rules help us to live well in those relationships. Generations have discussed the meaning and practice of following those rules. The commentary in the Talmud is the compilation of hundreds of years of debate. It can be confusing. Some rules keep the status quo; others bring change. This confusing mix makes it difficult for us to follow the Law.
Our Lord Jesus came to remind us of the true purpose of the Law: to turn our hearts and minds to Him. There are certainly rules that we should teach our children so that they will live well and avoid the consequences of disobedience, both secular and spiritual. But the real lesson that God has written on our hearts and that He calls us to share with the generations that come after us is to love God and our neighbors with our whole being.
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