Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Violence: A Parable (Part 2)

A parable is a story that teaches a deeper truth by way of analogy. In this particular analogy, the yard is the city, the weed is violence, the grass is people and families, and the soil is the spiritual matrix those families and people grow in. Or don’t.

Now as with all parables, one cannot press the analogy too hard. The point is to illustrate the point.

So what’s my point? The spiritual soil many people in Chicago grow in is toxic. It’s poor at best and dead and barren at worst. This “soil” includes the way people relate to other people, the cumulative effect of both the sins committed against them and the consequences of the sins they commit, their emotional and social health, and especially the way they relate to God.

Violence comes from all kinds of people – rich and poor, white and minority, educated and uneducated. But it seems especially prevalent among the poor and minorities in blighted neighborhoods in the city. The soil these people grow in has been made toxic by everything from systemic disenfranchisement to generations of bad choices to corporate greed to exploitation by the record industry to open rebellion against God. It’s complex. Neither the liberals nor the conservatives have a corner on explaining the actual nature of the problem, which is often what happens when an issue becomes politicized and polarized.

But the problem at hand is that kids are dying, and all the awareness campaigns, candlelight vigils, prayer marches, gun legislation, prison sentences and educational initiatives have failed so far to make a lasting dent. Interestingly, this was not happening 40 or 50 years ago, even among the poor and disenfranchised. One would think people would ask themselves what has changed between then and now. Of course, people were killing each other back in the day. In fact, that has been happening since Cain killed Abel. But one did not see the devastated families and kids killing kids. I believe the increasing rejection of God is at the heart of this issue. Rejection by every level of society in Western culture. Humans have always been guilty of gross sin, and it always brings death, but the Western phenomenon of seeing God as quaint, even among professing Christians, surely causes us to forfeit His peace and order.

Nothing short of a spiritual revolution can change this problem. Even if the shooting stopped, the toxicity would simply manifest itself in another way. The bad soil has to be stripped away, rich, living soil has to be put down, and the grass needs to be able to grow healthy and strong. Families and people have to be healed. We must deal with the problem at its root. There is no solution that does not include the spiritual healing of families and people, and I just don’t see this happening unless the church rises up.

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Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

I concur. Mostly.

The Church "stepping up" is an interesting notion. The Body of Christ is so separated and foxholed, that it cannot step up, even if it wanted/needed to. Not until we can develop unity can we lock arms and solve these systemic issues. Until then, each "local Church" will just continue to do programs and have limited impact...

April 28, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Unfortunately what Chris brings up is the usual state of things...Progress is a foot with some of us though. The Church my daughter attended here in the Austin area joined with the church that had an excellent "Under the Bridge" ministry and instead of re-engineering the wheel they had their members join in...Our church does much the same thing...there are churches in our area that have excellent community outreach and our members join with them. This crosses denominational lines and works well when it isn't the press that is important, but the mission...

April 28, 2009 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger odmorale said...

The Christian residents themselves need to be equipped and challenged to go out into their communities and change it.

Where I live there are several churches within blocks of each other, but you would never know it. I have not seen any of those churches do any community outreach.

Simplistic as it may be. People need to go out and proclaim the gospel. Unity or not.

Is God not powerful?!

The christians in those communities need to really believe and act on what they are taught in church and go out and obey the Great Commission.

April 29, 2009 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Ike said...

Why plant churches in Nashville? In addition to the fact that both church attendance and church availability are falling behind our growth in population, there is a deeper reason and a grander opportunity.

Think of a bell curve. At one end are a few people who obviously are not Christians. At the other end are a few people who obviously are Christians. In between are multitudes of people who are hard to read – good people, talented people, Bible-believing people, not living for Christ. They are nice people living nice lives, going to church, going to hell. They do not know how good God is. So Christ is being robbed of his honor, and massive beauty is going uncreated.

That bell curve is our city, and that status quo is firmly established. Any challenge will be criticized. But one thing is clear. Our Savior loves every person in this city, claims every square inch of this city, deserves every dollar in this city, and he has put us here to make his saving power felt, so that Jesus is loved and worshiped and obeyed and gladly lived for and courageously died for more than ever before in our history. Our Redeemer is able to create a new Nashville out of the old Nashville.

We men are the key.

It is time for us men – God created us men to lead – we men must be the first to apply the gospel to the real needs of our hearts, repent, trust God in new ways and live for him so visibly that others around us see hope for themselves. The urgent need of the hour is more men moving together from the middle of that bell curve toward the radically Christian end by the power of God’s grace.

The more men we have living in revival, the more churches we will have living in revival, and the more our city will feel the glory of Christ coming down in revival. Revival is God changing us beyond our power to change ourselves. It is miracle that we choose to embrace without embarrassment. God is calling you to be part of his miracle. God is calling you to be the change our city needs. God is calling you to be a cornerstone in the new Nashville. Will you follow the call?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches, “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.” Let's stop fine-tuning our old obedience. Let's go further with the Lord than we have ever gone before in new obedience. We are more evil than we ever feared and much more loved than we ever dreamed. New obedience flows from that realism about ourselves and that refreshing in God’s love. Let’s go there together, and let’s gather more men together to go there with us, and let’s not be surprised when God raises up new leaders to plant new churches that spread gospel-empowered revival. That is God’s call on us at Immanuel - revival-by-grace.

We are weak. We cannot do this perfectly. If the only choice we see before us is perfection versus nothing, we will get nothing every time. But if we will obey God’s call, even weakly and imperfectly, he will bless us, and our city will be blessed.

"Ray Ortlund"

April 30, 2009 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Ike...You always find such excellent quotes...There are so many treasures in that particular one that address the issue...For indeed God has chosen the foolish and the imperfect for His purposes so His grace and glory will shine forth through us.

"We are weak. We cannot do this perfectly. If the only choice we see before us is perfection versus nothing, we will get nothing every time. But if we will obey God’s call, even weakly and imperfectly, he will bless us, and our city will be blessed."

"Ray Ortlund"

May 1, 2009 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ike -

Awesome stuff! It seems like a dream sometimes, though. If I walk by sight and not by faith, I can get very discouraged and in despair.

Let us walk by FAITH.

May 1, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Ike said...

Steve......He will bring all of His sheep home! Thats good news!!

May 1, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

I am still concerned that without unity (something jesus prayed for and was obviously concerned about), we are a fractured Body; a freak of nature. Who would want to marry a woman with all of her limbs laying around, refusing to get surgery although all of the necessary expertise and skills were there to fix her?

I agree that we must act. Now. I would contend that part of that "action" is hammering out our differences so that an unbelieving world can see the Body for what we are meant to be. Someone who comes to Christ in Nashville (or anywhere else) will immediately be baffled why they are excommunicated from their brotehrs and sisters in Chicago, Minneapolis, Berlin, and Kingston.

Does anybody really think that we can just plow ahead as rugged individualists and ignore teh unity mandate? This notion is western, gross, and not theologically sound. It really does take a unified village (or a Body).

Be honest.

May 1, 2009 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I won't pretend for a moment that the church in America is healthy, which is one of the reasons (among many) we have the violence problem we do.

But is it possible that all that is called "the body" is not in fact the body?

Jesus said there would be tares among the wheat. Paul promised that false teachers would arise from within the church and cause division.

A real "hammering out" of our differences could only involve a return by all to a biblical dynamic and a biblical theology. I do not believe that you are saying we all find a happy middle, Chris, but that is what many people see as the key to unity. We must unite around GOD'S priorities.

In other words, I'm not compromising with Joel Osteen or Brian McLaren or Creflo Dollar. I may need to move or adjust or humbly learn for sure, but only in a more biblical direction as my eyes are opened by the Spirit of God.

In the meantime, as an individual Christian and a pastor of a local church, I cannot wait to act. I must act now, knowing the effectiveness of my action will be compromised by whatever degree it is lacking collaboration with the rest of the body in my city. Perhaps that is what Ike is suggesting?

Jesus did pray that we would be unified. Did the Father completely ignore His prayer? Is it possible that the real, true church (while far from ideal) is really more unified than we might see?

I know from experience how stratified and divided what I believe to be the real church in Chicago can be, but I have also experienced, among real Christians, a kinship that transcends denominational lines.

We are not yet working together in a coordinated fashion for sure, but I do believe the widespread presence of tares makes things look worse than they actually are.

May 1, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Ike said...

God has given us three indispensable and inter-related institutions: the church, the family, and civil government. When we fail to uphold these three institutions by adherence to God’s word, there are always negative consequences. In Europe, the family has failed (escalating divorce rates, plummeting birth rates, and the legalization of same-sex unions); the church is dying (less than 5% church attendance in most of Europe); and the government has seen Hitler’s socialist vision fully realized without as much as a shot being fired. The time was ripe for an invasion; and that’s precisely what Europe is experiencing.

By the way, here in America, the symptoms are almost exactly the same. The family is failing (escalating divorce rates, plummeting birth rates, and the legalization of same-sex unions); the church is dying (195 million un-churched [#4 in the world], no county in the US has a greater churched population today than it did 10 years ago, the population grew 11.4% in the last decade, while church attendance declined 9.5%, and 85% of American churches are plateaued or declining); and the government has fully embraced socialist ideals. Add to that mandatory government education (or socialist/secular humanist indoctrination), porous boarders, birthright citizenship and you’ve got a perfect storm brewing.

May 2, 2009 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

There will always be discouragement...but when light bumps into darkness an impression in ALWAYS made. Father God sent His Word into the world and it has NOT returned void; it is STILL working...He has called us and sent us...we will not return void either...

I think too many times we are discouraged because we are trying to evaluate or manipulate a response instead of doing what we are asked and letting God worry about the results...God will tell you what your part is then it is up to you to JUST DO IT!

May 3, 2009 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Ike said...

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

"That is not how Christians usually think about the city. Many Christians write the city off. At most, they try to establish their own fortresses within the city. But God does not tell his people to seek peace in the city; he tells them to seek the peace of the city."

Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah, page 415.

May 19, 2009 at 4:13 PM  

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