Find wholeness in Christ

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, August 23, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

I’ve traveled on mission trips to some rough parts of the world, but none as dangerous as the South and West sides of Chicago.

I’ve been to Chicago, multiple times, enjoyed baseball at Wrigley Field and strolling along Michigan Avenue, both on the North Side. The North Loop of Chicago is both safe and beautiful. But it has become obvious that the South and West sides of the city have become a war zone of gang violence.

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This came to a head earlier this month. From Friday, Aug. 3 to Monday, Aug. 6, 74 people were shot on the streets of the South and West sides of Chicago — 12 of them fatally. Yep, you read it right: 74 people shot and 12 killed — in one weekend.

This is completely unacceptable in the United States of America. Imagine being a loving parent in one of these neighborhoods. How could you stand to allow your children out of your sight? Many of the people who are shot in these neighborhoods are not rival gang members, but completely innocent bystanders — often children — who are caught in the crossfire.

Authorities must do better, and can. For instance, New York neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn and Manhattan that used to be scenes of lawlessness in the ’70s and ’80s are now very safe neighborhoods. Better policing has a lot to do with that.

But the issue goes far deeper. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson grew up in an at-risk neighborhood in Chicago, in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project. After the bloody weekend, Superintendent Johnson said, “We need parents to be parents. We need neighborhoods to be neighborhoods.”

The problem is that the family unit has come apart. As the editors of the Chicago Tribune noted, “Families are fractured, creating a shortage of positive role models.”

In such situations, churches have incredibly important roles to play. The church is itself a family. A local church is meant to be a loving family of brothers and sisters in Christ, and a place where the fatherless can discover loving, strong and godly male role models.

I am thankful that there are Bible-preaching, Christ-exalting pastors in some of these Chicago neighborhoods. One is Pastor Charlie Dates, who preached a dynamic sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this summer.

Please pray for Pastor Dates and other gospel pastors and churches in these neighborhoods. Pray that in the midst of darkness, they will shine the light of the gospel. Pray that the children of fractured homes will find wholeness in the family of God.

As Pastor Dates recently tweeted, “We prayed on the corners today. This is real. Pray with us wherever you are for #PeaceInChicago.”

I yearn for the day when the Prince of Peace will split the clouds and return to bring about peace on earth. Evil and death will be no more when King Jesus returns to renew His creation. Until then, He calls those of us who follow Him to be agents of faith, hope and love.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.