Rain prevented us from participating in a Fourth of July tradition in my extended family this year. The mayor of Spicer, MN, is married to my mother’s sister; they live only blocks off the route of the annual 4th of July parade.


I remember going many times when my dad was still alive, watching him encourage the children in our crew to pick up handfuls of candy for him. I remember my grandmother watching the parade next to me, as well as my children being among those who brought candy to my dad. Some years I watched my cousin drive the firetruck as part of his service as a fireman. 


Had we attended this year’s parade, I would have watched the Mayor and his family (my relatives) ride on a very special entry in the parade that usually has 150 or so entries. It is a simple event marked with patriotism and family, followed by far too much food.


It wasn’t Spicer, MN, but it could have been. The news on Monday came and socked me in the gut! Of all the days in our nation, the 308th mass shooting of this year (yes, you read that right) happened on the day we celebrate the founding of our nation and the independence and freedom we enjoy. Generations were just enjoying the holiday parade, much like my family has in Spicer. How is it possible? How did something like this happen? In a minute, an innocent gathering of families turned into a crime scene whose scars will continue to be felt for years to come. There is a 2-year-old child who will grow up without his biological parents. How does this happen in our nation on the day we celebrate our independence and freedom?


My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don't use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. All the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves. (Galatians 5:13-15)


As a nation we seem to be destroying ourselves out of a desire for a “freedom” that detaches itself from loving and serving the other. As people of faith, our freedom is of an interdependent nature. I cannot be free if you are not free. And you are not free when your life is in danger because of some freedom I want to exercise that comes at the expense of your safety, comfort, survival. As a follower of Jesus, I am willing to set aside a complete and reckless freedom in favor of a freedom that means the lives of others are blessed, served and loved.


What can you do with your freedom to change the pattern of mass shootings in America?


What are you willing to do with your freedom to make sure others are protected, served and loved?


Pastor Becky Jo

PHOTO CREDIT: Max Pixel, of Eichstaatt Monument, Violence in War; used by permission Creative Commons Zero - CCO

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