Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
Imagine for a moment, as long a moment as you can bear it, the agonies of all those sitting in prisons today, mothers separated from their children, men from their wives, imagine the runaways, those caught up in prostitution, abortion, gang warfare. Pick one, someone you know or know of. Then, apply the words of this Psalm as they might begin to consider how they got there.
We know what it’s like to feel the weight of guilt for something we said or did or left undone. Imagine if your sins had taken your further, deeper, deadlier into shame and captivity than you ever thought you could go. Imagine the cry of your heart when you would recognize that your mortal enemies had never been mortal at all, but spiritual enemies strong enough to abort your will to say “no,” your freedom to turn and walk away, to choose life.
Imagine, if you can, what it might be like for those so taken up by evil that the first thing they do in prison is join a new gang. Belonging is everything. If we are privileged only to imagine these things, we are privileged to pray for those who went too far and have lost the way back.
Imagine confronting those spiritual entities that have no truth in their mouths, whose inmost self is destruction, the ones that flattered you to think you “belonged” with other sinners, spiritual powers that rebelled against parents, family, society and in the end, you saw that they were rebels against God, taking you with them, their lies swallowing you into an open grave, and now, let’s pray as if these were our children.
For some in the Body of Christ, they are … and we will care deeply.
It is reported that there were more than 10,000 members of the MS-13 gang alone in the United States in 2018. That’s an average of 200 per state, with larger numbers in densely populated areas, of course, with other gang population totals topping 1.4 million.
In my research I made this discovery, a quote from a teacher in Central Islip on Long Island, one of many who have been watching classroom seats empty out to gang membership,“Unless we take the time and say ‘They are our children, too,’ and ‘We have to do better,’ I don’t think it’s going to get better.” Programs they may inaugurate, successes they may have, but there can be no greater hope for our Desperate Little Friends than that we begin to care to our core, and caring, to pray in faith, believing, because those empty chairs were once occupied by somebody’s child.
Lord God, again we ask that You would forgive and heal our own insular lives, when our prayers are for our children exclusively, not theirs, our sincerest hopes that evil won’t come near our dwelling, no matter how desperately poor and hopeless others may be. We do hold that hope, but for those who have already lost children to evil, to deceptions, we pray, we ask, that You would bring them home, and that You would make their homes to be fit to come back to. Impoverished, forgotten, deserted, steeped in addiction and violence, we are making ourselves care with more than fleeting emotion. Bring them home, Lord, to our hearts and to their families! Amen.
18th Street Gang Signal, Wikipedia, by permission – Aerial Twist