For the Dual Citizens Among Us: How It's Done in the South Bronx

If the name of my chosen home raises only distant memories of Dresdenized rubble, or–perhaps worse to many–the specter of the soulless hive, I accept your hesitation to read on and commit you to more authoritative words than I can conjure. But if you have ever wondered–I shall be blunt–what the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ might look like in action in a deep urban setting, I would love to give you one tiny glimpse.

Our co-pastor, who lives 5 houses from me down the block, moved here from the heartland in the early 70s, just as the borough was being written off as totally lost. Through a certain conviction that the good news of salvation must be preached most fully where the effects of its absence are most apparent, he became one of the founders of our church and director of an independently-run residential discipleship program for men. Forty-three years later he still lives in the same modest house where he and his wife (who grew up in the Bronx) raised their 13 children, and, with our other co-pastor, continues to teach the members of our church “to observe all that I [the Lord Christ] have commanded you.”

He does not often publicly comment about his daily activities–there is no need; we are a close-knit community, in frequent contact with each other–but the current atmosphere of unrest prompted the following email from him to the church members this evening, which I share for your edification:

I Timothy 2:1-2

Dear Covenant Members,

[Son] had a great idea tonight. He had seen two policemen on the corner of 183rd and University Avenue and thought it would be an affirmation of their value to our community by taking them some hot chocolate. He, [daughter-in-law], [granddaughter] and I walked out to the corner but they were gone. As we were coming back a police car stopped at the light. [Son] went up to them and told them what we had intended to do and offered them the hot chocolate. They seemed a little surprised but took the cups. I told them we appreciated their being in our community and know they are under a lot of pressure right now and wanted them to know we support them and are praying for them. I’m pretty sure those two black cops didn’t expect that from three white people in our neighborhood.

It occurred to me that all of us have an opportunity to do what Paul told people under the rule of Rome to do: give thanks for and pray for those over us in authority. Surprise your local policemen on the street with words of thanks (and if available, hot chocolate). Especially let’s pray for [2 NYPD church members and their wives] during this time of heightened tension in their service to the people of NYC.

Grateful for God’s servants, the police, (Romans 13:1-7)

Some people’s lives necessarily display the fruit of their trust in the Lamb of God to be their sole salvation; they, with the Psalmist, have no fear when opposed by either wicked foes or seeming friends; they are able to unimpeachably speak into situations that few would broach, needing no approval of men. But many more remain who need to hear the news they proclaim; pray for the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into the harvest–not daring to judge that any square inch, or city block, must be outside the realm of his sovereign work of redemption.