Violence… wars and rumors of wars. Violence in our cities. Violence in my hometown, El Paso, Tx (prayers for y’all!). Violence in my hood… Violence in my backyard.
I respond to insistent knocking at my backdoor, hustling down the stairs from my bedroom where I was reading a book and just on the cusp of falling into a delightful nap. I know it’s one of our kids, otherwise it would have been the doorbell from the front. I open the door, experience has taught me to be prepared for anything.
“Hey Chris…” It’s P. , one of our wayward children who just can’t seem to catch a break in life, but he looks more messed up than usual. “I’ve been shot” he says. Apparently the night before he was walking down the street near our house with a group of people (we don’t know what he was doing) and shots rang out. They all ran and after a few steps he realized he’d been hit. The bullet went through his arm, thankfully not ending his life. He’d been treated in the hospital and released and our house was the first place he came. He was obviously still in a state of shock, although he tried to play it off by affecting a street demeanor. But in the midst of telling me his story he broke down in sobs… crying out to God, “Why does this stuff keep happening to me?!”
P. is one of two of our young men who have been shot this summer. Thankfully neither instance proved fatal. Unfortunately, violence is a part of life here. You avoid it, you take precautions, but it will pop up anywhere, anytime. Young black men in the city attract it like a magnet. You can live your whole life in a way designed to avoid it, then, pow!, it’s right there. But the reality is in these times violence is never far from any of us. And we all begin to get a taste of what it means to grow up black and poor in the city.
I tell our young people at church, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. Jesus foretold rampant violence in the form of wars and social and family dysfunction right before his return (Matthew 24). You better make sure you’re living right because Jesus is coming soon. Our responsibility is to be the people of God and love one another. We want to be doing His will when he comes back. We don’t want to be caught out, because Jesus will surprise everyone. I want to be caught in the act of showing love to others, let God sort out the details.
So, in our corner of the kingdom, we are loving and encouraging P. We are helping him to get back on his feet physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are offering solace and community in Christ. We grieve and pray at every episode of violence, near or far. We teach, we model, we vote. We try to make the world better… but we know this world will end. We are not part of it, we’re just passing through. We prepare for the next one and we proclaim with the apostle Paul… “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Or, as we say in the ‘hood, “We ready!”