Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Peace on Earth

I had a conversation this week with some friends about the gospel. We were talking about politics, about the church, and ultimately about the role of the Christian in the world. One of the questions we were discussing was in raising children - how much do you expose a child to in order to help them learn to live as a Christian in the world. My friend talked about how growing up in a Christian school didn't really prepare him for the reality of the world. I fully understand wanting to protect our children, particularly in the most formative times of their life. I protect Hannah from things like TV - I don't want her to see certain things. I don't want her to watch commercials even if I can help it, because I realize that the ads are attempting to feed her a lie about what satisfies in life. Does that mean we keep our kids inside, turn off the TV, home school them all, hand pick their friends? I live in a rough neighborhood. Most police in my city call it the ghetto. In a few short years since we've lived here, we've had drug deals, race riots, graffiti on our garage door, hit and run car accidents, home invasion robberies (not my home), cars broken into (mine), an attempted break in to my house, arrests and more arrests, domestic abuse, sexual predators, and lots more. Part of me thinks that this is exactly where a follower of Christ needs to be. I know that God placed us in this neighborhood, and maybe that's because he wants us to be aware of the needs of a seemingly small peaceful city. But does God want me to put my family at risk for the sake of the gospel? Even asking that question seems silly to me. I know the right answer - the gospel is about bringing hope and healing and restoration to those in bondage. It makes sense that God would put us in a place of significant need. But again, how do I teach my daughter about the reality of sin in the world, and the hope of the gospel, without jading her, or putting her life in danger? I know the danger for myself, and I've chosen to live with that. But a four year old? What does the gospel look like for her? What does it expect of her?

So anyway, back to this conversation at lunch. I shared about how I don't want Hannah to be unaware of pain in the world. We talk to her about orphans in Africa, and she struggles to understand how kids could live without their parents. We take her with us into Mexico - where she has gone door to door, shack to shack, handing out invitations for VBS programs. She has seen poverty first hand. We talk to her about kids that go without food. She understands that. I don't think she's at a place yet to understand salvation, or a divine God-man who came and died for our sins. We talk about that, but based on her playtime when the occasional kitty "dies on the cross", I'm pretty sure she hasn't grasped that idea yet. But, she gets the gospel of meeting needs. She understands that when a homeless man is hungry, we feed him. She gets that when people living in a dump in Mexico need a home - we build them one. She knows that daddy went to Africa to help kids and people who were sick. And she connects that with Jesus. She knows that we do these things because of him.

But last night it was as if Jesus was asking - how much do you really believe that the gospel is good news for the world? I was sitting on my couch, about ready to head off to bed when I heard three gun shots, which to be honest is something I've heard before. But soon after the shots I heard lots of yelling and noise. So I went out on my front porch to see where all the noise was coming from. At that point a saw a man running away from the area of the noise, and he ran right past my house. Honestly, I don't know who this person was or their connection to the situation. But it very well could have been the shooter, or someone just scared running away. Soon after the police were all over the neighborhood, a helicopter was circling with spot light on, people were yelling and screaming, it was nuts. This morning, one man is dead.

When people fight, they do drugs, they break things, they vandalize - all of that doesn't really affect me. People heal, stuff gets fixed. But when bullets start flying - it's way too easy for someone innocent to get hurt. So again, the question of the gospel. Would Jesus ask me to put my family at risk for the sake of the gospel? My daughter is pretty unaware, but my wife is scared. I can't blame her. I'm really wrestling with it all this morning. I realize that my first priority is to my family. If the gospel doesn't give them hope and peace, then something isn't right. But I don't know if that's the same thing as safety. Living out the gospel in the midst of brokenness is not a safe thing. But it's what Jesus calls us to do. I guess I'm just realizing that the gospel demands much more of me than living a nice, safe, comfortable life. I know that Jesus has us here right now. In the meantime, I will protect my family from those that would seek to harm us. I mean, we lock our doors, we have an alarm, I own a gun. But I won't hide inside, and I won't run away. I will live my life as a follower of Jesus. I will be available to meet the needs that arise. I will do my best to add to the peace and hope of people in this neighborhood. The gospel not only brings hope to those that need it, but it also stands up and fights what is evil, and it takes on injustice. Ultimately, it brings peace, because love wins.

Peace on earth. I long for that.

What do you think of all this? Does the gospel ask us to put ourselves and/or the ones we love at risk?


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