"I've seen a lot, except for the face of my father!"
These words, "I've seen a lot except for the face of my father," haunt me . This song (watch the powerful video above) is from a New Jersey teen named Ahsan. In song form, he pours out his fears about the possibility of becoming the next violent crime statistic.
Pay close attention to the chorus!
"Don't the let the City get me. Don't let the bullets hit me. Don't let the dealers trick me. don't Let the streets win me ... Don't the corner hold me. Don't let the mother mourn me. Don't let the hood take me down. Don't let me this hood take me under."
As someone who has spent a decade as an urban youth worker, I've watched this scenario play out in the lives of so many kids. As a Christian, I'm praying that this would become an issue that grips all Christ-followers.
Sadly, Ahsan's song was written nearly 20 years after another another New Jersey native penned a similar account. Ironically, the song was entitled, Everything is Gonna Be Alright. (Note: Even the edited video below is graphic. And you can read lyrics here.)
In the song, Naughty by Nature's Treach made it clear that everything would not be all right. The most gripping lyric is when he asks a question and then answers it himself.
"How will I make it? I won't that's how!" How can that not grip you?
If Jesus is the answer, who is going to tell the people in the hood that He's the answer? How does the church respond to what we see happening in America's inner cities? If we learn anything from the book of Jonah, the answer is not with apathy.
Most people think Jonah is a book about a whale. The fish is actually a sidebar. The book is actually about a reluctant prophet who didn't share God's compassion for a particular city. Here are four things we learn from the book of Jonah.
1. God has compassion on a "Godless" city. Jonah has one of the strangest endings in the Bible. It closes with God asking Jonah a question. "And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Despite the city's wickedness, God's heart was to still see Nineveh repent. As Christians, are we hard-hearted or full of compassion for the cities in America?
2. God rebukes Jonah for loving a plant more than the people of Nineveh. Jonah has a lot of passion. He gets angry a lot in this book. He gets angry when the people of Nineveh repent. He gets mad for God showing kindness to the people of Nineveh. And Jonah is furious when God provides for him a plant for shade and then takes the plant away. God's question to Jonah is "Why do you care more about the plant than the people?" It's not a stretch that God would ask the American evangelical church, "Why do you care more about (fill in the blank) than the people in the city dying without the gospel?"
3. God sends someone to preach God's word to the people of Nineveh. This is why the fish is only a sidebar. Jonah decides he doesn't want to be God's spokesperson in Nineveh, so He runs. The point is that God ordained that His word would be the cure for the problems in Nineveh. And I believe that same Gospel - lived and proclaimed in word, truth and deed - can change our cities, too. Please pray, support, and when appropriate link arms with churches and ministries taking the gospel to the cities. (Listen here to LeCrae's song "Beautiful Feet" about going to the city with the gospel.)
4. Jesus succeeds where Jonah fails. Jonah ran from God's mission. Jesus ran to it, even when it landed him on a cross. Jonah had no compassion for the people. Jesus cried for the people who where like sheep without a shepherd. Jonah disobeyed God. Jesus never disobeyed God. He lived perfectly. Yet, he substituted Himself on a cross for us, paying for our sins, because He had no sins of His own to pay for. That's the good news that I need, you need, and the hood needs. Whether you are from the hood, suburbs, or a trailer park, we can all be reconciled to God now.
I write these blogs as conversation starters. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you wrestle through apathy or engaging the plight of the inner-city.
Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her blog here), and a father to five crazy kids. Chris has written for The News Leader, VIBE, Rapzilla.com, JamTheHype.com and other publications. Recently, Moody Published released his first book, entitled You're Grounded, which you can read about here.
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