Dancing in the Streets Again
An Answer to Violent Crime in Memphis
The first week of September in our city has been fraught with anger, anxiety, and fear. A young mother of two was kidnapped and murdered while jogging, and a separate city-wide shooting spree killed four and injured three. Many have eloquently written laments for Memphis, and many have spoken on behalf of all of us who are caught in the vice of despair. Words and waiting… watching and wishing…
Many were awakened to the inexplicable violence because it crossed an invisible barrier from our poorest neighborhoods to our wealthier ones. The kind of violence that many of the women in Orange Mound have become accustomed to exploded into communities considered to be “safe.” No longer could we acknowledge a crime problem in Memphis via nameless statistics, but instead we were able to put a name and a face to a number.
For years now at The House, we have listened to, counseled with, and prayed for women who lost a husband, a child, a grandchild, a close friend to gun violence. We have also sought healing for women whose child or relative was a perpetrator of a violent crime.
So, what do we do? Who can fix us?
Torrey Bates, of For the Kingdom, wrote in his most recent newsletter:
“The question isn’t, ‘Is the violence out of control?’ We each know that is a resounding YES. The question should be, ‘What do we do as children of God and bearers of His light in times like this?’”
“The issue we are dealing with is spiritual (Ephesians 6:11-12). Throughout the Bible, when a city was in disarray like we are, a remnant of believers’ first reaction was to bow before God, confess, and look to Him for wisdom before they stood up to take action.
At the heart of God is loving our neighbors as we would love ourselves. Spiritual work starts first at home and then out to our neighbors loving them as we do ourselves. The work of loving our community is not a transactional one or for the soldiers, but for all of us to play a role in taking action out of love and giving the least of those what they need in order to rebuild the fabric of our city.”
Jesus Christ writes through Solomon in Proverbs 11:10:
“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices”.
Someone broke that verse apart for me years ago.
Hebrew for “righteous” is “tsaddiqim,” defined as the people who follow God’s heart and ways and who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for His purposes.
Tim Keller adds that, “the righteous are those who disadvantage themselves for the community.”
Thousands of righteous women have sung and run this week. I heard the refrain, “Let this light of mine shine over Memphis Town.” The refrains were echoed across the world by like-minded righteous women holding candles and singing, “we shall overcome the dangers of our times.”
The “rejoice,” in Hebrew means “dancing in the streets!”
When the righteous prosper, according to Proverbs 11:10, even the poor neighborhoods can dance in the streets because the resources are pouring in and all of the needs will be met. Neighborhoods clean up and thrive, injustices are history, kids are parented, porches have swings, picnics abound, cars slow down, grass is mowed, people own homes, schools are respectable, teachers have sway, dads are present, jobs are secure, and gardens are everywhere.
Jesus also said through Matthew’s Gospel in Matthew 18:19:
“If two of you, who are righteous, shall agree on earth in what they ask, it shall be done for them.”
There is enormous power that exists when believers get in agreement with each other. This week alone, dialogue and demonstration has avowed that we are all in agreement and asking for peace and safety in our city.
The Greek for “agreement” is sumphoneo. It means there is a symphony, suggesting diverse instruments under the direction of a skilled conductor producing a masterpiece.
Memphis can be God’s masterpiece again.
Thousands upon thousands of us throughout our country, and even across the world agree, have sung about it, have run for it, and have prayed over it.
There is a symphony accompanying the voices of women who are singing, “this little light of mine” will overcome! The darkness cannot isolate us, divide us, or discourage us.
Our city is going to rise from the ashes. Where once we were the City of Churches, The City Beautiful of America, and the Capital of the Midsouth, we will be The City on the Bluff where children play freely in their front yards watching their parents dance in the streets.