Monday, June 23, 2008

A fight in the alley

As many of you know we have not moved to the best of neighborhoods, but certainly not the worst of neighborhoods either. We have, for a number of reasons, believed that it would be best to locate ourselves in the midst of neighborhood that would give us a chance to be friends with those that might be called sinners, or poor, but also one that would not be outright dangerous.

A week ago, as is fairly common, we began to hear some raised voices out the back. Being that we live looking over a dubious alley, this did not really cause much concern at first, but things began to escalate very quickly. Soon there were very stern challenges and many insulting words being shouted. Immediately I began to hear the sound of flesh hitting flesh.

I walked out onto our front balcony and looked at what was happening. About seven young men were fighting. They appeared to be in fairly even teams, and it was very violent as you could expect. I did not know what to do, but as God said blessed are the peacemakers, I felt I could not just "stay out of it". So I shouted from the balcony for them to stop fighting.

They did not listen.

I then shouted that if they didn't stop fighting I would call the police!

They still did not listen, but one of the girls that was watching told me to, "mind your own business".

Eventually I had Raquel call the cops, but the fighting stopped and the people dispersed before they arrived, if they did arrive.

And then came time for reflection, one that was a bit painful to me. I had acted very poorly. Through the process of reflecting upon my actions, with God's gospel, and Jesus' life in my heart, I realized a number of things that I had done, that should have been differently:

Standing above them (particularly as a white male) and shouting orders down to them, was not the best way. If I was to be involved I should have done it at street level, not from a place of both safety and superiority.

I should not have told them what to do. I had no authority over them. I was not even a friend to them. Questions almost always are better than commands.

I should not have threatened to call the cops. For two reasons, one, this was a threat of violence. Violence does not cast out violence. There was no way the police would be involved without the violence of force used, and I used this as a threat. The second reason is if I believed the police were necessary, I should have just called and allowed them to handle it.

I also learned some important things about how I could have handled this, and been prepared for it:

I found that I knew my duty to my fellow man, but in the immediacy of the situation I did not for a moment ask for, or look for God's guidance. If God is, as I do believe, with us at all times, I should have asked for wisdom, and insight, even if for just a moment. I did not look to God, but rather looked to my own resources, which were lacking.

I realized that I had not thought about this scenario, nor was prepared for it. Though we cannot be prepared for everything, if we can imagine some of what might be coming our way we can allow God to prepare us ahead of time for what will come. For instance I have already thought out the various ways I would handle a situation if it was seven guys, attacking one guy. But a fair fight, I had not prepared my mind for.

And lastly, I wished that I had prepared some more imaginative ways of dealing with things. I thought that if I could blow fire like Gene Simmons, I could have run into the alley and blown a few fire balls, and when they were astonished, I could have asked them to stop fighting. Or maybe since they were Hispanic, I might have appealed to some of their Catholic heritage by shouting out the Lords Prayer. I think God wants us to be creative.

The fact is I cannot just stay out of it, or mind my own business. The kingdom comes as we make our neighborhoods places where God's rule applies, at least into and through us. We cannot shirk into selfish safety, nor depend on a system of government that is often unjust, and violent, and at its best is over taxed and not relational. But I must look for God's wisdom, God's leading in the affair. If I am to truly minister in this place, I must learn to look to the heavens frequently, for it is there my help comes from.

Please pray for us,


1 comment:

J. M. Prater said...

I miss your insights John. You are/were one of the most interesting persons I have met and been affected by in my life. Who knows, maybe one day we'll be neighbors again at some point.