crime: (noun) a grave offense especially against morality
This past August, I wrote about my experiences, from the third grade, when I attended Franklin Elementary and Howard Kennedy Elementary Schools. The post was partly inspired by an Omaha Young Professionals Event where we were given a pitch to volunteer, and serve, in some of Omaha’s inner city elementary schools. They were schools that had a high percentage of students living at or below the poverty line, and they were looking for young professionals to help students at these schools meet various academic goals.
While I sat through the pitch, I was being stirred. Again. Throughout this year, God has been challenging me to get more involved when it comes to social justice matters. The catalyst was reading Tim Keller’s Generous Justice. It was a book where at the end of every chapter I had to put it down, seemingly, because I was overwhelmed by what Tim was saying. Well, I was overwhelmed by what God was speaking to me through Tim’s words. I was examining my own life and wondering what I could be doing to bring justice to those in need.
It’s not that I haven’t been involved or detached when it comes to social justice, by the standards of the world I’m doing well on that front. I find myself challenging the status quo when it comes to perceptions about the city, specifically North Omaha. I press people when I feel like they are using coded language to mask prejudice, whether they realize it or not. I help out with projects, and attend events, that target areas of Omaha in need, support the community and encourage others to do the same. I try to support local businesses and organizations within the city that give back. I try and highlight how a number of us have won the birth lottery, which has given some of us a huge advantage in achieving success in this life. I’ve worked on various projects that have attempted to draw attention to the need that is there in the city, and for the church to get involved.
But, how am I doing by God’s standards? Not good. Am I loving my neighbor the way Jesus expects? No, not at all. This was the conclusion I was arriving at with God. If I wasn’t getting my hands dirty, if I wasn’t involving myself on the ground or in the streets more, if most of my work on this front was strictly communicative in nature, then I would be guilty. Guilty of inaction. Guilty of not leading out.
Guilty of sin.
I should know better, and God wasn’t going to let me get away with it anymore.
There is a growing injustice going on within Omaha and kids are the victims. They are the victims of poverty, family breakdown, violence and injustice. As some of you know, Omaha has the highest percentage of African-American children living in poverty. What good does it do if all we ever do is just talk about these problems? What are we doing about it? What are we doing about it in our neighborhood, and the neighborhood across town? How fair is it to expect kids, who have all the disadvantages, to compete with kids, who have all the advantages?
A few weeks after hearing the pitch to get involved more, I attended Leadership Summit. One of the sessions dealt with tough callings. The words shared during this session weren’t as challenging as the testimonies of the individuals who shared. One of the individuals who shared was Mama Maggie Gobran. She is serving the homeless, that live amongst trash, in Cairo, Egypt. She is doing this in an area where Christians and women face persecution. You observe her life and you will be challenged to ask, “What am I doing?”
That’s not to say if you aren’t doing what Mama Maggie is doing you are wrong. However, probably everyone that heard her story examined what they were doing with their life. I was doing that, but also sensing the stirring to get more involved on the ground. It was inescapable.
When she got done sharing, everyone was handed a piece of broken pottery. Bill Hybels referenced the prophet Jeremiah and how he had a tough calling as a prophet. He read from Jeremiah 19 and how Jeremiah bought a piece of pottery and smashed it in front of everyone in one of his prophecies. The piece of pottery we had was to remind us that we live in a broken world. There are broken people all around us. God is looking for people who will go into that brokenness to minister and serve people. God is looking for people who will make that kind of generational/lifetime commitment to address the brokenness in this world. God is looking for people who will shun the world’s, and Western church’s, idea of success to please God and serve humanity.
I held that piece of pottery and prayed. I knew I was going to be involved in a deeper way within the Omaha community. I was not going to be guilty of the crime of in action.
While still attending Leadership Summit, I signed up to get involved with The Partnership for our Kids and return to Franklin Elementary.
Part 2 to come.
This post originally appeared on Robert Murphy’s personal blog, RamHatter.