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Just Let Me Belong

Recently I was privileged to view a program on TV about gangs and gang activities. To say the least, I was very alarmed. For several years we have been hearing about how these gangs were growing and how strong they were becoming, but somehow, someway, it was off in a distant part of the country and there was nothing for us to fear. As this program went on, it was shockingly evident to me that they were moving, growing and spreading so fast and so far that we were growing into the center of the circle. It is frightening.

The program’s point was to show from gang members themselves how gangs worked. It was graphic in the photos of those killed by the members as well as members of their own gang being killed by others. It was graphic in the language the members used and worked deliberately to define the slang words. The language was filthy and reflected the kind of thinking that is continually before them.

As I listened, I heard a common thread all the way though the program and the interviews. Everyone interviewed, without exception, was either from broken homes or loveless homes. More than the discussions of drugs, sex and violence, came discussions of how the “old man” or “old lady” never demonstrated love, or they talked extensively of the violence in the home.

Gangs are violent. They kill, deal and use drugs and alcohol and promote the destruction of property and human dignity. It is an ugly picture. With something so evil, why would anyone be drawn to a gang?

The answer to this question was a super-highway all the way through the documentary. In the gangs, as evil as they are, there was a sense of love and community. Somehow in their distorted view of living, even in and among all the violence, the members feel loved.

Those of us who know true love, might look at this and exclaim to ourselves, “I don’t know what this is, but it is not love”, but try looking at it from the prospective of the loveless. Look at it from the eyes of those who did not grow up in a loving home with loving parents checking on them and guiding them daily. If you had never really seen love, even a distorted love like the gangs offer looks good.

I guess I have a warped sense of understanding, but as the program continued many things were going on in my head. There was fright and fear coming from knowing that the gang problem is going to get much worse before it ever starts to get better. There was disgust toward the parents who were so selfish that they could not love their children, and there was hurt for a nation that will one day come to war within to deal with the situation.

But within me was another understanding, one that must not be overlooked. The Church is a place where people can have a sense of love and community. Some come to church out of the compulsion of tradition or a sense of duty. Some come because they are pressured by friends or family, but some come because they love God and feel a sense of love and community among those with whom they are associating.

Many churches are cold, steeped so deeply in their rituals and rightness that they forget to love people. People are more important than principles. People are the priority. It is not contributions and larger offerings. People are the focus, not programs and procedures. People need love!

People in our world are starving for affection. Sex, violence, gangs, drugs and the like are not the answer. Sex does not turn lives around, love does. Drugs do not change lives for the better, but love does. Gangs do not make the God given goodness come out in people, but love does. Love is the answer to the greatest need of the world and the Church should be the ones who show it the most.

When lives are broken by sin and poor choices, people need love. When families struggle with the obstacles of life, they need others to show them love. The Church can be the place and the people who provide that need.

Share your love with someone today. Let someone around you feel the presence of God in your life by letting them touch your love. Show your love to a love-starved world and we will be like Jesus. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”  (John 13:35)