Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Not in my neighborhood!"

Nearly everyone in the U.S. is feeling the hurt of their emptying wallets as they fill their gas tanks. Again gas is at $4.00 a gallon. It would be cheaper to run our cars off eggnog or premium chocolate milk than gas. We Americans appreciate the value of a good deal, and it certainly feels like we are not getting one at the gas pump.

Basic economics suggest that supply and demand dictate prices. When demand is greater than supply, prices rise; when supply is greater than demand, prices drop. Therefore, many have sought to end the high gas prices by creating higher supply through drilling on U.S. soil. This has left many outraged protesting “not in my neighborhood!” Others suggest that the best way to manage cost is to decrease demand by using less, and again people have shouted “not in my neighborhood.” Many are demanding something to be done about gas prices, as long as it is done somewhere else and at the expense of someone else.

This attitude of “not in my neighborhood” has really been disturbing my heart over the last couple of years. I feel the problem of the “not in my neighborhood” mentality is of greater concern than whatever the price of gas will be.

When I came to Lynhurst Baptist Church almost two years ago I heard many in the community express their desire for the church to help with the hurting neighborhood. Many of these voices were non-attending neighbors who had great concern for the area. When Hope Garrett and Restoring Lives West and the church acquired a dilapidated home to restore for office use to help teenagers and young adults through crises and homelessness we were surprised by the reaction of some neighbors. The very neighbors who were quick to encourage me to help the neighborhood, were the very ones who opposed our work. While the opposition agreed to the need and ministry that Restoring Lives West was doing, they protested “not in my neighborhood.” We were blessed to have many neighbors support the ministry and its location, but I was shocked at the mentality of those who expressed concern for the neighborhood when I first arrived to Indianapolis refusal to support us.

I think most of us want lower gas prices, better schools, less violence, helpful programs for those in trouble, but we do not want these improvements come at a cost or sacrifice to us. We want lower gas prices, but we don’t want drilling in our neighborhood, we want better schools but we don’t want more taxes, we want God to transform lives of criminals, but not next door. We have become a people who want everything and want to give up nothing for it. I see the world suffering and full of brokenness because we are so unwilling to give up the very little we have to gain something so much more. We have forgotten to look beyond ourselves, beyond the now, and beyond comfort.

We see this in the scriptures. Jesus travels to a town by the name of Gerasenes (Luke 8:26-39). There was a man who was demon-possessed who lived in graves. Jesus freed the man by casting his demons out into a herd of pigs. When the demons entered the pigs they all ran off a steep bank and drowned. While I am sure the people of Gerasenes heard of Jesus before, and I am sure many were excited about the healings that he could perform, but to this town the cost was too much. Healings were good, the message of Jesus was good, his offer of life was good, but they were not willing to give up some measly pigs to allow something greater to come.

We need to look at our own world. We need to look at our lives and examine what it is we have been unwilling to sacrifice to allow God’s redemptive Spirit to work. We need to make sure that we are not surrendering spiritual restoration for a herd of pigs. We need to open our neighborhoods and our own doors and say “yes! In my neighborhood!”

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