Years ago, predominantly white neighborhoods started to become more ethnically and economically diverse. This scared residents and caused them to leave and build neighborhoods far from the center of their cities.
The common title of this phenomenon is White Flight.
It’s a real thing that happened all over the developed world.
The greater tragedy is that Christians participated in this mass exodus from the city.
For Christians, this behavior of seeking safety and security away from the darkness isn’t about racism, or property values, or fear of the unknown.
It’s about faithlessness.
It’s about not believing God. Not believing that Jesus is in charge.
One thing I’ve noticed about my neighborhood is that the population changes all the time. This happens when the poor don’t pay rent and get evicted from sub-par housing.
But even though the population is constantly changing, the neighborhood has stayed exactly the same.
Isn’t that crazy?
Think about your neighborhood. What if 40% of your neighbors were replaced this year. Wouldn’t the dynamic of your neighborhood change, even just a little?
But Midtown doesn’t change. It has the same problems. Even when the “problem people” leave, the problems remain.
I was lamenting over this truth to Rachel — complaining about government education systems and lack of accountability for subsidized housing and blah blah blah.
Rachel rightly pointed out the real problem:
Christians have fled from the darkness.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV)
Remember the quote from last week?
“There are no God forsaken places, only church forsaken places.”
From my experience, I can say with confidence that the answer problem neighborhoods is not to write checks or to elect the right officials.
The answer is to be a light in the darkness.
To engage rather than flee.
And this requires that we leave the comfort we’ve worked our whole lives to secure and interact with people who are different than us.
That we get to know people enough to understand their problems before we assume we know how to fix them.
That we mourn with those who mourn.
That we touch the untouchable.
That we… well, the list is endless.
But in short, being a light in the darkness requires that we repent and love our neighbors.
Because otherwise, the darkness stays dark.