I grew up in Spokane Washington. As a teenager I became aware of the gang activity in the area. Of course it was no where near as bad in Spokane as it is for many other urban areas but, nonetheless, it was traumatizing as a teen to hear about how these gangs would drive around with a baseball bat and when they found someone who was wearing the wrong color they would send out the newest members of the gang to beat them up. It was terrorizing to hear about some of the violent things they would talk about like giving smileys (curb-stomping) to their enemies.
I liked a recent thing I heard Dr. Who say, “An enemy is just a friend you don’t really know yet.” The Quakers have a saying, “AN enemy is someone whose story you haven’t heard yet.
At any rate, I can understand how people who are surrounded by this sort of culture causes them to feel like you had to be part of the biggest baddest gang just to survive (like life in prison I would imagine).
I hated this violence and avoided all violent people. For some reason though I was attracted to the idea of having a group of people, a community that you felt like you could belong to. I even started wearing a white bandana with my few friends because, to my knowledge it wasn’t associated with any gangs. This was a mistake as all gangs seem to have claimed all the colors… except maybe pink? That would be hilarious! I don’t think anyone would take them seriously.
One day I was standing out in front of a 7-11 gas station and I watched as a truck saw me, yell something and turn around back toward me. I ran back into the alley. (Tip: If someone is chasing you with ill intent, the alley is definitely NOT the place to go!)
Once back in the alley I literally believe that the angels were coaching me. “Now get up on that dumpster. Ok, now jump up onto the roof. Lie flat and keep still.” So I did.
I watched from the roof of the 7-11 as two guys ran back into the alley after me. Dumbfounded they said to each other, “Where’d he go?” God was watching out for me.
My best friend’s sister was really drawn to the sense of belonging a gang could provide. She so wanted to belong to community, a family that accepted one another just as they were, that looked out for each other, who “loved” each other, and would protect and stand up for each other… Isn’t that what we all want?
In this gang, the way that they would initiate new members was to “beat them in”. I remember well the day she was beat in. I was at my friends house when she came home from the hospital. Her faced was black and blue and all puffy. As soon as she was able to move again, the first thing she did was to call up one of her gang member friends and say, “Am I in? Am I in?”
It broke my heart the other day to think about this story and about that deep need we all share to belong. Then, Jesus spoke the following words into my heart and dropped the following image into my mind:
“You Are In!”
Jesus was “beaten in” on our behalf so we could be a part of the most amazing family ever! A family that knows you and even all your faults and accepts you anyway – though they might just love you SO much to not let you remain in sin! This is a family that has your back, looks out for you, protects and stands up for you, values you, and truly loves you. You belong! You are in!
If you haven’t found the joy of that sense of belonging in the church (the body of Christ), I would recommend finding a Christ honoring, bible believing church in your area. Smaller fellowships (home groups) that meet through the week are awesome for developing a deeper walk with God. Check it out! Go become part of a local church!
But be sure to pray about it! God will lead you to the right place where you are a perfect fit. If you don’t fit somewhere, don’t lose heart. Some churches may not be as passionate about the same things that God has made you to be passionate about. You might not be able to plug in and use the gifts God’s given you. If that is the case, consider moving on.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” Where is he leading you?