So, as mentioned previously, we have had an uptick in gang activity in our neighborhood lately. No shoot outs or anything worthy of a movie drama scene, just kids with too much time on their hands wanting to participate in “family activities”. Granted, their family activities are a little more disruptive to other people than most of ours are, and illegal, but part of belonging nonetheless. This particularly hit home the other day when a friend who lives down the street had to return a neighbor baby into their home because she was playing with a toy in the middle of the road. The other kids told my friend they had been instructed to stay outside, to which she said the baby needed to be looked after rather than sitting in the middle of the street. They (children 4-6 years old) let her know that “we’s takes care of weselves.” It is what we see a lot, not in some dramatic, call DFCS manner, but in general kids essentially raising themselves. This particular household has a larger number of children than I even know with two moms between all of them (not a couple, just the living arrangements). It is no wonder then, that by the time they reach 9, 10, 11 or 12 a “gang” would be welcome if for no other reason than to have someone bigger and stronger to look after them, to know where they are, and promise to “take care of them”. And then, whatever destructive events they are asked to participate in, are easily justified or at least minimized just as we all tend to do with the sins of those we love.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
Part of what Jesus did in reversing the curse brought about by Adam and Eve’s demand for independence was to restore His offspring to the family. While Adam and Eve were momentarily at enmity with God and orphaned, left to survive on their own, God immediately pursued and reinstated them as His own. The rest of the redemptive story tells of the process required for the full renewal of this relationship, and humanity’s continual pull to be his/her own god and God’s relentless determination to rescue and regenerate. That same story is being told daily in my own life.
Like those kids, somewhere deep down where I don’t even always know it, I’d really like to just be taken care of…provided for, protected, nurtured and assessed as one of great value. Like those kids, my gospel amnesia leaves me assuming for these things to occur, I’ve got to look after my own self. I might look for this provision in a “gang” of others who can validate or promote me, or I may go inward for self-preservation. It makes me insecure in some seasons, believing peril to be around every corner. Other times it makes me suspicious, convinced others will take what is mine if I don’t watch my back at all times. This gospel amnesia persuades me that if I want any good thing, I have to fight for it and work harder or be more clever than all the others. The cumulative effect is that it makes me the center of each moment I find myself in and my welfare the ultimate goal of my life. Making a name for myself and establishing my territory consumes my attention. There isn’t energy or emotion left to sacrifice for the welfare of others, unless of course it might serve the ends of my own success.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5:1-2
Everything about the person and work of Jesus flips my natural tendencies upside down. It tells me that He already has a name, which is a fortified tower, and that His place extends to the furthest reaches of the earth and into all eternity. If I am securely in Him and not orphaned and left on my own, I have nothing to lose and nothing of real value that can be taken from me. If HE is my provider, I can trust that whatever He chooses to provide is exactly what I need for His good purposes. Therefore, I can sacrifice for others as He did when my inheritance in Him can never spoil, perish or fade. I don’t need the praises men, who are here today and gone tomorrow, when I have the praise of the Father saying, “Well done my good faithful servant” directly at me as I stand inside Jesus, the only One ever meriting the description “good” or even “faithful”.
To the extent (and it is great) that I am still fiercely protective of my time, my stuff, my career, my reputation and so on, my faith that I belong to Him (with all that His being mine and all that is mine belonging to Him) still has growing to do. Oh that I may enjoy the freedom and generosity of Spirit of a heart rooted and established in Him that I may love others as selflessly as I have been loved, looking more to the interests of others than of my own self-interest. And even this beautiful, regenerative process is not something left to my efforts to do, as if orphaned even in Jesus, but He will complete this good work that He has begun.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”(Is. 26:20, Hab. 2:3 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Hab. 2:4)But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Heb. 10:32-39