Tuesday, August 7, 2007

a "bad" neighborhood

How does our vocabulary affect our actions? Change our behaviors? Mold our living?

When we were in Boston the other week, I often heard people mention things about "bad neighborhoods." Comments like "we should be careful," or "it feels kind of scary," or "is this safe."

(Before I go any further, let me mention that safety is right at the top of my priority list as a Jr. High youth pastor. So don't think that I'm ignoring safety in the following comments.)

I was driving through one such neighborhood by myself one evening, going to pick up a group of our students from a house. All the warnings were ringing in the back of my head. And then it struck me. The houses I was driving in front of...people lived in them. The people I was passing on their sidewalks...they were real. People considered this neighborhood home. It was where they woke up in the morning. It was a place they couldn't "avoid after dark." It was streets on which their dreams began and, yes, sometimes ended. It was where they were involved in mundane things like brushing their teeth and hoping that some girl likes them. Where they paid bills and came home from work to.

I live in a bubble. One where I get to choose when I want to be "safe" or not and how "safe" I want to be. The lives that these people may be experiencing are significantly different than mine...I watched a drug deal go down as I drove further on. But God's love isn't somehow different for these people. And, in some sense, I don't think he particularly cares about how safe I feel, but more about how much I'll embrace that love. Embrace that love by embracing others. I was struck that I don't think Christ would view a city as "safe" neighborhoods and "unsafe" neighborhoods...but more as a load of people love on. And it's hard to embrace someone fromo a distance.

7 comments:

Kali said...

These are issues that many are afraid to deal with. Safety is something that children are generally taught to embrace as soon as they are able to understand. (Un)Fortunately following God is not safe. It's with this most middle class North American believers must struggle with considering from thier earliest memories they are taught to seek safety, both consciencely and sub consciencely.

Aaron said...

Also makes you think about the kinds of safety we want - physical, emotional, spiritual. Each one of these, and more, can be threatened in 'bad' areas. But the point remains, if Christians do not intentionally interact with these areas, there is no light shed. People who call that place home stay in physical, emotional, and spiritual 'dark' areas and will have a hard time knowing anything different. And where would Christ go? where does He send followers (who are well-equipped and wise in their dealings with the world)?

joeldaniel said...

Kali...great thoughts. When we connect "comfort" as a staple to our Christianity, we do run into problems. A lot of people spend time equating American history and the American experience with Christianity, but in a lot of ways it seems the "American dream" isn't very Christian at all. Life in the 'burbs, 2.5 kids, a white picket fence...what happened to "foxes have holes...but the Son of Man (and those who follow him) has no place to lay his head" (Matt. 8:19-20)?

Lyndsey said...

God is everywhere and would never flee...we should not either...once again it is we who mess up God, not God....like you said, the american dream....it isn't really that Christian at all...it's selfish. Sadly. Everyone desires it, and God would not want us to "feel safe" and have all that our heart desires. A friend from Chicago told me, God always will meet our needs, yet it is He who defines our needs. It definately made me think. I was walking to school today, captivated by I believe, the Andies Mts. More than Captivated, blown away. And very simply it crossed my mind...how present are you, Lord. Very present, very magnificant. He made those mts. and Bolivia, and America, with those same hands made you and I....does that mute you for a minute? It took me back... a few steps. How great is our God. So much greater and bigger than I could ever imagine. I got to worship Him on Sunday in La Paz...some people don't even know where it is, let alone think it is safe...God knows and God is here. God knows that neighborhood in Boston and he does love it with his whole heart....his whole heart.
We are blessed to know that...what makes us any different than those in different areas...no one desires the saving grace of Jesus...so we who know it and live it, have no right to withhold it

joeldaniel said...

Aaron...
isn't it Christ's body, after all, who are intended to bring goodness into the midst of difficulty? Not that Christianity is safe (think Aslan, right?), or continually cheerful (think Job), but He is good. if we start avoiding places because of our own safety, then we're compromising the very call of the Gospel, which assures us that "nothing can separate us", that our God is a "strong tower", and, as you've so aptly pointed out, that the difficult places is where Christ would go.

joeldaniel said...

Lynds...

"no one desires the saving grace of Jesus...so we who know it and live it, have no right to withhold it"

brilliant.

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