A 27-year old father of two, Luke Harris, was shot dead last week in a pub in Wolverhampton. The first comment posted on the local newspaper, the Express and Star, webapage was:
# Karl said: Mar 15th, 2008 at 11:33 am
This doesn’t surprise me one bit! The whole of Whitmore Reans is a lawless area to say the least. And it’s just been worse over the years.
The problem is obvious to Karl and it should be obvious to most people, some areas of our cities are now lawless. Various government policies seek to address the issue:
- Community development officers on 18 month contracts, which is barely enough time to get to know the names of streets let alone people.
- Police community support officers are placed on the beat few hours a day.
- Schools are given a key role in moral education.
- There’s spending on regeneration as houses, schools and streets are tarted up.
- Volunteer sector groups are given government funding as long as the group is not faith based.
And yet our inner city areas continue to grow more lawless.
How are inner city communities going to find their way out of lawlessness? The answer is not education, community development, more police or regeneration. It is not moralism or better enforcement through the fear of being caught and given a harsh sentence. The answer to the lawlessness of inner cities in the gospel of Christ and there are two particular aspects which apply:
- if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18 )
- Jesus Christ, gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness (Titus 2:13-14)
Communities become lawless as a result of seeking to escape from the individual and collective condemnation, shame and guilt induced by failure to keep the law. But with no law there can be no guilt so the law gradually erodes and a community becomes shameless.
God’s way of releasing us from the guilt, shame and condemnation of moral failure is not by abolishing the law but through faith in Christ crucified for sin, which is the breaking of the law. Christ’s death purifies our guilty conscience not so that we can go on being lawless but so that we can uphold the law. This is God’s purpose in saving us (Titus 3:8).
The only question is, who will take the gospel into lawless communities? Christians need to live in the inner city, plant churches as they share their lives as well as the gospel (Titus 1:5) in places filled with liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12).
Inner city lawlessness is not due to government failure. The government is doing what it can. A lawless society is a symptom of the failure of the church to proclaim the gospel and the law. We should not expect the government to make up for ecclesiastical failure.