We had a drive-by shooting in our neighborhood a few years ago, on our street, right in front of our home. My family and I were watching television in the living room early one evening. I looked out the window at the very moment the car drove by. A man leaned out of the window, twisted around and started shooting back up the street, just like you've seen in gangster movies.
Really scary. After the car sped away, all of us came running out of our front doors. We met in the street, literally standing among the spent bullets. We called the police. We compared stories of what we saw. No one seemed to be injured. Who was the target?
For the next several months, I watched for "For Sale" signs in my neighbors' yards. There weren't any. I like to think that no one's moving because we know each other, and we like each other. We chat in our front yards, dress up our dogs for 4th of July parades, exchange homemade goodies at Christmas. . .all that good stuff people consider "community."
Some urban neighborhoods lost their sense of community long ago. There's a broken window. Then there's grafitti on the fences. Trash in the street. One family moves, then another, then another. The resources leave the community. Christian families relocate to "safer" places. The salt and light are gone.
When the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon, God told them to "build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce. . .and seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare"(Jeremiah 29:5-7). One of the principles of Christian community development is the re-population of blighted neighborhoods with people who have resources: financial, social, educational and spiritual. Wherever God has placed us–in an inner city neighborhood or an outlying suburb–we should put down roots, seek the welfare of our neighbors, and live out God's purpose for us in that place.