Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Loving The Gangsta! / Street Level Devotions

Luke 6: 27-31
This is what I say to all who will listen to me:
Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, don’t stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don’t try to keep back your shirt. Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you. Treat others just as you want to be treated.

Living in the Ghetto for a large part of my life, I have been told who the good guys are and who the “gangsta’s” are. The sad thing is, that often isn’t what people think. Don’t let the following comment shock you too much, but I have seen bad cops and nice gang members. While some may have issue with that, it is the truth. Our enemies and friends often become cloudy as to who fits into what category.

Over the years, especially while living in some of the neighborhoods I have, I come to realize that sometimes the gang members had more reason to protect the integrity of a community than did the police. Unless one has lived in a situation like this they will likely never understand.

I recall one instance where my neighborhood was getting robbed on a regular basis, homes and even churches were being broken into. While this was going on, I and the community were notifying the police, but unfortunately we still never saw the police patrolling the community. One night I got pulled over on the outskirts of our community for a burned out tail light. You would have thought I was the worst criminal who had ever been pulled over by this rookie cop. I learned as a pastor that I was in reality, going to get very little, if any help from this young and inexperienced police officer. Of course later on, one of the good local police officers, had a few words with this one officer after I reported the incident.

After interviewing with a local television station about the robberies in the community, and realizing that it seemed as if most people didn’t care for the lower run down neighborhoods that I decided to take further action. I ended up visiting one of the gang members across the street. I decided to go out of my way and talk to them about the needs of the community. After treating the person with respect, they and some of their “friends” were willing to start helping with some of the community needs and community watch. While many would not have considered these the best people to go to, I decided to take a chance and be respectful to them. In return, because they knew my background, and the fact that I gave them respect, they became allies, and more importantly, they begin to see a follower of Jesus in a different way. One of them later asked me to perform a wedding ceremony for them.

The truth is, we often see people as enemies, when in reality, if we show a little love, they can become our friends. Jesus went out of his way to teach us to love all people, even those we see as enemies. It is true, that sometimes our enemies are our enemies, but when we show unconditional love it makes it harder for them to see us as enemies, and eventually, progress can be made at the development of a relationship that will produce good things.

This week, starting with someone you don’t get along with, try to do something nice. Buy them an ice cream cone, give them some flowers, or if nothing else notice something nice about their behavior and give them a compliment. Doing these simple things is the start of learning to love your enemies and turning them into friends. Once we get to that point, we won’t have to turn too many cheeks because we have started by extending our hands.

Thought for the day: It’s easy to love those who are always good to you, but there is a lot of growth all of the way around when you make the effort to turn an enemy into a friend. In the long run, it is those people that become real friends for a lifetime, and hopefully for others, an eternity.

I loved the movie this following clip is from, The Fighting Temptations. It shows the potential of loving people, the importance of the church, and the ability of even gangsta's coming to love Jesus. Just click on the video and if the video don't appear, just click on the link:

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