Wednesday, 04 May 2011 11:37

The Community Id Like to Live In

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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The room was full of anticipation and apprehension as about a dozen people gathered with two discussion leaders for a “Community Conversation”, as part of the “Believe It!” campaign, sponsored by the Montgomery Education Foundation. The session I attended was part of a series of community gatherings intended to collect from people throughout the community about how to improve education in our area.

 


The first question helped to eliminate my apprehension as the facilitator asked, “What kind of community would you like to live in?” Almost in unison, voices across the room rose with some form of the word, “SAFE”! People are concerned about safety – in their schools, their businesses, their homes, and throughout their neighborhoods. And, while increased law enforcement, metal detectors, or home security systems might purchase a little piece of mind, the fact remains that a safe community is a by-product of a moral community.

Crime is a physical manifestation of an inward deficiency. As a society, because our respect for life has declined, people are less resistant to inflicting harm on others. Because our respect for individual rights and freedoms has deteriorated, then such virtues as common courtesy and placing the needs of others above our own have evaporated, too. One reason people may steal is because their economic conditions are not sufficient, and, in many cases, because work and responsibility are not held in as high esteem as in the past.

And, we have seen an erosion of the family structure. God ordained the family as an essential component for right living. The divorce rate and illegitimate births have increased dramatically, and while studies repeatedly show that kids thrive best in an environment where there is a mother and a father, such a phenomenon does not exist in many American homes. In homes where there are no fathers, we see that the propensity for violence increases, school performance decreases, and kids seek out acceptance many times in environments that are unstable and promote violent behavior.

These are factors that contribute to a community where people feel insecure. So, how do we as Christians become people of influence and begin to play a role in crafting a better community?

Recognize that government is not the answer. While many taxpayers have reached the threshold of how much they pay into the government coffers and many see over half of their income taxed from them, the strain on government programs is causing civic entities to approach collapse. Social programs that may have been designed to give people a hand up have morphed into a handout. And there is simply not enough money to put law enforcement personnel on the streets to protect every home and business, and the prison population continues to swell. The problem of the heart has become the corruption of a culture. And, changed hearts produce a more civil, safe society.

While heart transformation through Christ is the ultimate answer to produce the community we’d like to live in, the stark reality is that there is monumental work to do in addressing the dysfunction all around us. And, the teachings of Scripture are clear – we’re called to reach out to the poor, the widows, the orphans, and people in need in various areas. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He sent them out to not only preach the word but to act in a manner that would call attention to Him and to advance the agenda of His heavenly kingdom here on earth. So, as the church has failed to realize and fulfill what I regard as its mandate to pour Christ’s love in society, the so-called “safety net” has been constructed by the government, and the threads of the rope of the net are unraveling as we speak. So…

Look for gaps in which you can pour your life. Ezekiel speaks of “standing in the gap”, and this is commonly thought to refer to intercessory prayer. But the Free Dictionary gives this definition for that phrase: “to expose one’s self for the protection of something…” There’s that idea of safety – perhaps we, as believers in Christ, are called to be people who protect our culture from itself. This is consistent with Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 to be “salt and light”. Salt is a preservative, and in preserving our society from harm, we are called to see through spiritual eyes and recognize that as we serve, as we model dependency on God in the midst of challenges, and as we inject godly wisdom into conversations or meetings, we are representing the Kingdom of God well. Are you ready to speak and live the truth so that we can help to create the type of community - a better community - in which we’d like to live?

 

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