This morning, once again the brokenness of my neighborhood swept over us like a wave. This morning I walked out the front door of the building where we pay $2600 for the “privilege” of living in 1000 square feet with people above, below, and on either side of us. I walked out and straight through the living space of 2 dozen of our neighbors without homes wedged precariously along sidewalks and between hedges … and by living space I include public spaces where they have to relieve themselves while I have the luxury of choosing between two toilets, both with doors and a bit of privacy. Shortly afterwards, my wife drove into the parking garage entrance in the back of our building, right alongside a broken young woman who had pulled her pants down to relieve herself in the entrance, immediately followed, while still bent over, by shooting up with the drug that has obviously enslaved her. I met my wife, still in tears, in our garage, while she unloaded 4 years of frustration and sadness over our inability to see really any noticeable difference in the overwhelming darkness of this place. Our initial natural human reaction is to vent and rage at the individuals. Its usually, not always, followed shortly behind by a Godly compassion and understanding that we are not in a natural battle and these are people, created in and bearers of the imago dei (image of God for you non Latin types). The knowledge of this, I think, comes from our posturing of being present in our neighborhood. We understand the depth of this only because we are immersed in it. This is not a field trip for us, this is everyday. It’s exhausting.
As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, our traditional posturing (meaning our church communities) is merely to live in our neighborhoods as opposed to into. The Gospel of John records that Jesus took on flesh and “moved into the neighborhood” (Chapter 1 of The Message). Jesus didn’t take field trips to the marginalized and broken. He lived into, he ate with, laughed with, cried with those of his region. In that same vein, his followers didn’t just show up for the teaching on Sunday (sorry, Saturday). They knew his restoration and he their brokenness because they were on mission together. That’s where we’ve missed out, we aren’t in community with him, each other or those who surround us. We will take a worship field trip when it fits our schedule. We will take a scripture field trip and call it a small group study. We take a field trip to the marginalized and call it a missions trip. “I’ll pray for you” is the extent of our call to action. All the while, brokenness and heartache continue around us, unchecked by invested relationships or stories of faith victories.
There is hope. Ours may be a place where brokenness is on display on practically every block, but I’d bet good money yours is a place with its fare share of brokenness and despair … there is just a great deal of effort being put forth to hide it. This makes it all the more urgent that those who claim to be followers of Jesus, actually follow Jesus into their neighborhoods … He’s already there, he’s always been there. Only when you know and are known can you really bring hope and healing. That takes an invested life, not another field trip.