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A Little Think

Hammer Out Justice This Independence Day

Those were the days! I was single, working in downtown Chicago, #1 N. Wacker Drive, for AT&T. After a full day at work, I'd head to Old Town for guitar lessons. My strumming was minimal, but it sure made me appreciate folk singers like Peter, Paul, and Mary, who were huge at the time. While they're still strumming, my guitar gets picked up only now and then these days. What I do continue to pick up from those folk days, especially around Independence Day, is their version of "If I had a Hammer." We've been humming it for three generations now, so it runs pretty deep in some of our veins. You know the words:

"If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land"

"Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land"

Before we use our hammer and bell to bring about justice and freedom, how do we define them? Some freedoms we take for granted are being challenged in our country right now. Some may matter to you; some may not. But before they get eliminated, stay informed. I read about a San Diego couple -- a pastor and his wife -- who were told by county officials to obtain a permit to have people over for Bible study in their home! I had to read it twice to be sure.

This First Amendment challenge came from a neighbor who complained about the weekly gatherings of about 15 people that had been going on for five years. The neighbor's car had been dinged by someone attending the study. The pastor paid for the damage, but the neighbor filed a complaint. In an investigation by the county, the county folks actually asked, "Do you have a regular meeting in your home? Do you say 'amen'? Do you pray? Do you say, 'praise the Lord'?" After replying, "yes" to each inquiry, the couple was warned to cease and desist the "religious gathering" without a permit or face weekly fines. A few days later, the county delivered a citation claiming the family was guilty of unlawful use of land, requiring them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit." If the situation had progressed, the process to obtain the permit could have cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, after numerous complaints to the county, the situation was resolved. The couple can continue to host the Bible study without a permit in their home after all. The county released a statement saying more clarification is needed in defining religious gatherings and the people enforcing the code may need more training. The county noted it was trying to address traffic and parking issues, not targeting the couple and their Bible study.

I'm trying to get this. Is it like the time years ago when a woman in my neighborhood had regular business meetings in her home with about ten cars parked outside? Our kids had to ride their bikes around these cars and into the flow of traffic, so it was dangerous. Neighbors became annoyed because the woman ran the business out of her home in a residential area, not zoned for commercial use. When we approached her reasonably and discussed it with her, she stopped.

But Bible study is not a business, and the situation surprises me. When we get together to watch ballgames, have jewelry parties, or sell kitchen supplies, will we need permits to monitor parking? Maybe so. When I have all the relatives over every Christmas to celebrate, is that a lawful use of my land?

What danger, what warning are you hammering out? What justice will you champion for the human race? What freedoms are in danger? As a Christian, when I sing that song, I feel called by the God of the universe to personally lessen the danger for fellow human beings. I can do it literally by taking in -- or at least listening to -- a person in danger, be that person a man, woman, child, or unborn child. I can give money to help others fight for justice and support those on the front lines who do it. We have a great Fourth of July show with retired Colonel Jeff O'Leary and his wife, Cindy, who talk about "taking the high ground" in battles and in life. Jeff is a FOXNews military analyst on terrorism and Middle East politics, has written five books on lessons learned in battle, and also founded and directs Mission of Joy -- a non-profit organization working to ease the plight of orphaned and homeless children in India. He's built four orphanages and feeds thousands of hungry children each week. He's out there sounding the alarm, fighting injustices, and sticking up for the weak.

While we might not be able to travel and take the incredibly active role O'Leary has, we can watch for ways to uphold justice and freedom for all. The closing line from "If I Had a Hammer" is "It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this la....aaaa....and!" How will you hammer out the love? Have a little think about that, and let me know what you do. I for one am hammering out love by writing a check to Mission of Joy!

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