A few weeks ago there was a shooting around the corner from our apartment, and in the chaos of the aftermath, one of our youth was nabbed by the police as he ran down Kenwood to go and check on some friends. The officers grabbed him, threw him to the ground, twisted his arm badly enough to hurt his wrist, and kept him in the back of a cruiser for a fair amount of time.
As this friend shared with us about his experience of being detained and trying to speak in his own defense to the officers involved, he told us that the thing he kept repeating to the officers was this: “I am a youth leader at Church of the Redeemer. Please, just go talk to Elliot, or Lauren, or Doug and Erika. Call Pastor Danny. Talk to the church, please. They can vouch for me.”
As unfortunate as this young man’s experience was, it made my heart glad to hear how much stock he placed in his identity with us. As frustrated as I was by the injury to his hand, I was impressed by his sense of belonging to us, and that in his mind that was such a powerful and persuasive thing. That by proclaiming his association with us, he was declaring that he was set apart; different. And in that moment of pain and fear and crisis, we were the ones he expected to come to his aid; to draw near and fight on his behalf.
I also laughed at my own memory of sitting in the back of a police car on Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, muttering mostly to myself at that point: “But I am Senior Par Excellance…”
Last night I taught the second session of our church membership class in our living room after the kids had gone to bed. The seven people gathered heard stories about who we are as a family of faith, and what it means to join this family. We talked about our commitment to proximity to one another as valuable, perhaps necessary, in terms of a common life and witness as well as the practical outworking of our discipleship together.
The exchange between the police and one of our youth the other night is a good example of why this kind of life together matters. For all of us.