A refuge in violent times
As National Black History month in the United States draws to a close, and we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, it's sobering to learn that Philadelphia has the highest homicide rate for African-Americans among the nation's biggest cities, especially for black teens (see this newspaper, "In Philadelphia, a 'disturbing' black murder rate," Feb. 13).
As the mother of a 5-year-old African-American youngster, living just outside the Philly area, I find my heart goes out to my neighbors – all the children and teens and families dealing with the daily violence. But I want to do more than empathize. Because I've been helped by prayer so many times in my life, I go to my Father-Mother God to see what healing ideas can be brought to this situation.
I remember an account in the Bible about a woman named Abigail and a man named David that suggests some answers (see I Samuel, chapter 25).
Abigail's husband, Nabal, was a pretty mean character. He was also rich, having large herds of livestock. He employed many shepherds to tend them – protecting them from wild beasts and cattle rustlers.
It was customary in those days for self-appointed vigilantes to help shepherds protect their flocks. In return for their services, they would be compensated by the owners.
Since David and a band of his men had helped Nabal's shepherds, David felt justified in asking Nabal to feed his men in return. Nabal refused, which incited David's thirst for revenge.
While David was on his way to kill Nabal and his men, Abigail intercepted David. Falling at his feet, she begged for his mercy, offering him the needed food and supplies she had brought with her.
But more than this, she appealed to his higher nature. She recognized his innate goodness and acknowledged that he was fighting "the battles of the Lord." And then she reasoned, "Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God."
Although David was en route to seek revenge killing, God upheld his soul, his spiritual identity, strengthening his moral courage and keeping him from destruction.
Abigail's gentle wisdom defused his anger, bringing him to his senses. "Blessed be thou," he said, "which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand."
To me, it was Abigail's recognition of David's spiritual nature that gave him the moral courage to maintain his spiritual integrity.
I find it helpful to think of that same spiritual nature and integrity "bundling" the life of those teens in Philadelphia. They, too, can be prevented from revenge killings and from taking the law into their own hands. This takes an "Abigail" mentality, which I have a heart to develop.
I find guidance in this passage by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science: "Striving to be good, to do good, and to love our neighbor as ourself, man's soul is safe; man emerges from mortality and receives his rights inalienable – the love of God and man ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 200).
I love to think of each of us as bundled up in life – God's life. That word bundle makes me think of a mother bundling her child up from the winter cold, being sure it's completely warm and safe.
Our Father-Mother God does the same thing for us. She bundles us up safe – protecting us from harm, whether it's from others or our own temptation. God bundles us up with everything we need to succeed and to fulfill our life purpose.
So today as I think about those teens in Philadelphia, I'm going to bundle them up in life, too, safe from being prey or a predator, bundled up in Life, God.