Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chicago: 77 Neighborhoods, 1 City

Each neighborhood has its own demographics, its own strengths, its own character. At first glance, this division of the city gives each neighborhood a "small-town feel." As someone who likes order, my first reaction was one of delight that the city had different sections that were easily recognizable; each one has its own easily definable traits. Wicker Park is "hipsterville," while West Ridge, Rogers Park, and Albany Park are considered the "ethnic" neighborhoods, etc.
Take a deeper look, however, and you will find that these divisions bring to bear the rotten fruit of generalization, marginalization, and disunity. As gentrification slowly creeps into a neighborhood, it pushes the unwanted, impoverished, and overlooked of society out of those streets. Each neighborhood can also have poor connotations, too. The South Side is to be avoided. West Garfield Park has the most homicides per capita in Chicago.

And yet, West Garfield Park is where Sydney and I found ourselves (quite by accident) Saturday. As we stepped out of the train station, my mind immediately began to fill with words like "danger," "violence," "unsafe," "gangs," "run," and "don't make eye contact." Still, as my heart began to slow down from its throbbing pace as we waited for what seemed like hours for the bus, our Lord brought the words of 1 John 4:18-21 to my mind:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
My heart flooded with conviction. Yes, there is a place for healthy situational awareness, but these people were fellow image-bearers, just as broken as me, of whom I had let statistics and the media influence my perception of without ever taking the time to look them in the eye, smile, or say "hello." I watched these same people go about their day: greeting each other, walking in and out of shops... as people. Actual human beings. Novel thought, right? I watched these same people kindly help each other on the bus when a woman struggled to fold out one of the seats---these are the same people the world usually tries to forget about on a day-to-day basis. My gut reaction was the adoption of an un-Christlike attitude of superiority, with no thought of tying on the apron of a servant around myself or seeing their need for the Gospel. Yet Jesus died for them out of perfect love, and how dare I not be willing to do the same?

Do you believe in territorial spirits? I do. I believe that there are dark beings at work, seeking to put up walls between each of the 77 neighborhoods here in Chicago to keep those within them trapped in whatever identity has been forced upon them. I believe these spirits are seeking to control the spiritual fervor of church-planting and disciple-making movements that are taking place within the confines of an invisible geographic and demographic barrier.

Please pray alongside me and other evangelical workers in the city these next few weeks, as a summer-long Prayercast takes place over the city of Chicago (http://prayercast.com/chicago77.html
Please pray for each neighborhood individually, that our Victorius Defender would bind the forces that seek to divide this beautifully diverse city.

Wishing you well from the Windy City (which is a very accurate description),