Finding the Gospel of Reconciliation in the Inner City

July 22, 2016  |  Craig St. John

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

Charles Kinsey

Lorne Ahrens.

Michael Krol.

Michael J. Smith.

Brent Thompson.

Patrick Zamarripa.

Men created imago Dei—in the image of God. No matter the hashtag, that matters.

As the Church, we cry out for justice. We lament. We ask how long, O Lord?

We don’t rush to judgment. While prayerful, we listen. We hear multiple perspectives. We weep with all who weep.

We may not ever get answers. We may not ever see a solution.

But we remain hopeful. We place our trust in the King of the universe who is and will make all things new. A place where every tear will be wiped, and death will be no more.

The evil in our midst that we’re all too well aware of will pass away.

Come quickly, Lord!

We’re continuing in our several week process together of listening, praying, lamenting, we’ll be hearing from multiple voices of laypeople in our congregation. Many who hold one perspective or another might have very strong feelings both for and against what is written. Those opinions are quite evident on social media. Here, rather than fostering a community of mudslinging, we wish to foster one of unity, even amid a diversity of viewpoints. With humility and respect, we listen to these perspectives from real brothers and sisters in Christ with real experiences and real pain and real wisdom. Together, we enter into the conversation as listeners who are slow to speak.

Joe Thompson, Pastoral Resident at Redemption Tempe, writes the following guidance from the perspective of one who grew up in the inner city.

  • In the inner city there is widespread…everything. Love, fear, crime, hardships, temptation, growth, poverty, improvements, ignorance, division, etc.  Without Jesus, one’s experience of these things can be unbearable, or leave them hopeless. Folks are either running from poverty and what surrounds them, moving on and then never looking back, or they’re just embracing it as the only thing they’ll ever know. We ought to pray for individuals in the inner city to have an encounter with Christ that changes them internally, that they might be agents of change where they are.
  • As a community, one thing you can feel is the rest of the world looking at you and people who look like you or live where you live as criminals, even though they have never met you. This can be angering, scary, disheartening and make you feel like there is nothing positive happening in your midst. Let’s pray for the community leaders who live and breathe to bring change, growth, and the grace of God to their communities. Pray that they are seen and promoted, rather than the stereotypes.
  • Because of stereotypes and majority negative impressions of the inner city, police and civilians often don’t have great relationships. When you see so many people of your color dying by the hands of police, you begin to believe your life does not matter as much as everyone else’s. Fear can be a deterrent of good relationships in any context. Pray that we don’t live by fear, but by faith. Pray that unity spawns between communities and law enforcement, to not only keep one another safe, but in order to build into the communities both desire to serve.
  • There is a stigma that you can’t go in to inner city communities for fear that something might happen to you. Pray that we cross the line and enter into places where others won’t for the sake of the gospel. Pray that people seek not to give handouts, but to build true genuine relationships with communities different than your own. Pray that fear would not consume you, but rather that love for God and your neighbor would prevail. Pray for the kingdom in all its ethnic diversity and that it would be represented in every community.
  • In a lot of inner city communities, you have under resourced schools and businesses that have abandoned posts and an overall barrenness. This can contribute to hopelessness and isolation. Pray that jobs would be created through the mobilizations of businesses that might serve these barren communities. Pray for they would be afforded to opportunities to build alongside other business that will service the community.