Crime rates in many American cities have lowered significantly in the last decade. But it's still sobering to find that most of the crime continues to be committed by young men between 16 and 36. If we are to find safety in urban life, we need to help young people find peace and satisfaction and the confidence that each one can make a contribution to society instead of undermining it.
Peace and satisfaction have to do with being convinced that our efforts to do good are worthwhile. There's nothing more demoralizing than trying harder and harder only to have the results crumble and be lost. There's nothing more frustrating than recognizing a good idea but having no opportunity to put it to use. Often, troubled kids face these disappointments alone, without family support. Our prayers can support their courage to go forward despite the obstacles.
A recent story in the Chicago Tribune highlighted the success of a teenager who insisted on being a ward of the state because he knew his life with a drug-dependent mother held no future. His prospects after high school graduation are now bright. Where does that kind of vision and courage come from? Ultimately it comes from God. The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote of "the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 332). God's saving message, which speaks in each consciousness, is that we each have a secure relationship with Him. This divine influence insists that we recognize our identity as being God's very image and likeness. This understanding allows us to abandon the mental states that result in lives of despair and uselessness.
Sometimes my prayer for youth goes this way: "Father, help them to recognize the beauty of Your messages coming to them. Thank you for loving Your children enough to speak to them in ways that lead them to a sense of worth and constructive action."
Sometimes we can hardly utter that prayer, it seems, without feeling the immediate disdain of doubt. "Even if God is speaking to these young men, somehow they will choose not to hear, or are unable to hear," it goes. The Bible has a name for that voice of doubt: the accuser. Among other things, this false accuser says that we're little more than environmentally determined animals who struggle for survival. The accuser tempts us to belittle our goodness, defeat new ideas, and thwart right action.
To find proof that we are instead the image and likeness of God, we need to admit that we are each here to make God's goodness more tangible. This magnifies and exalts every act of unselfishness and compassion.
One of the most important things you and I can do to support the lessening of crime is to silence the accuser in our own thoughts. When reading about yet another car theft or drug-related murder, instead of joining in the chorus that denies the hope of progress, we can acknowledge that the healing presence of God is right there to awaken honesty and integrity.
In the back of the Bible, there's a book called Revelation. And it has this reassurance: "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Rev 12:10). This proclamation follows a war in which evil is portrayed as a dragon being defeated by angels.
Good ideas are angels. They have sweetness, but are powerful enough to kill the ugliest dragon. The young men of our cities are worthy of responding to their best angels - to the knowledge of their goodness as the children of God. They have the right to see that their goodness is relevant to their families and communities.
Wherewithal shall a young
man cleanse his way? by
taking heed thereto according
to thy word. With my whole
heart have I sought thee:
O let me not wander from
Psalms 119:9, 10
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society