One day when I was attending college in Houston, Texas, I was walking through Love Park with my friend, Kenny. The park was adjacent to the campus of Gulf Coast Bible College. Suddenly, the quiet of the afternoon was interrupted by the ugly sound of fists striking flesh. Immediately, Kenny and I pivoted simultaneously to see four young teens beating another teen. They had chased him down on his bike and were punching and kicking him. It was awful! Stunned, at first we only watched! One of them would knock the poor teen to the ground. Someone else would pick him up and they would take turns wailing away on him!
Instinctively, we ran toward the fight without a real good plan of what to do next. We yelled, “STOP!” to them as we ran. I remember thinking this might not be the brightest thing we had done, but something inside drove us forward. When we got to the teens we surprised them and they stopped the beating and backed away. I told them that no one should be beaten defenseless by four others. They started yelling about him stealing something he said he didn’t steal. Meanwhile we were picking the guy off the ground and started helping him to our car so we could get him to the hospital. The group was yelling at us but didn’t appear to want to pick a fight with us and didn’t keep us from assisting the teen.
Now it was our turn to be caught off guard! What happened next was nothing that we could have imagined! Suddenly, we were surrounded by four gang members on Harleys. They appeared to be the older brothers of the teens and they weren’t happy! They were really upset at us for intervening. They were cussing us and telling us to stay out of it and drop the guy. They jumped off their bikes and threatened to do to us what the younger boys were doing to the guy when we had arrived on the scene and rescued him!
The situation did NOT look good for us! I quickly scanned the horizon but I didn’t see any cavalry coming for us so I did the only thing I could think of to do—I started praying.
I had my arm around the abused teen and as I prayed I kept moving toward the school campus! I made as little eye contact as possible so as not to activate the Alpha dog mentality, but it was too late. The street fighter in Kenny awoke and he began telling the aggressors to keep their mouths shut in colorful language and that is when everything escalated! One of the gang guys jumped off his bike and pulled a knife. The others quickly formed a circle around Kenny who had no knife and it was on! Kenny and the guy were circling each other and for the second time in a short time I was thinking. This doesn’t look good.
Then I had an idea! Someone here has to be the leader. Maybe I can make sense with him. I surveyed the group and selected the largest male. He was watching from the sidelines with great satisfaction. He had a beer bottle in his hand and wore plenty of metal. I took a chance. Since Kenny and his mouth had their undivided attention, I was under the radar. This could be just the opportunity to risk approaching the “leader” and perhaps to reason with him. So I approached him. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, Look this fight wasn’t our fight and it wasn’t your fight. Why should someone get cut and what if the police come all because we aren’t using our heads and egos got in the way. Call your guy off. We don’t need this and neither do you. Call your guy off!
I was stunned when he looked at me and looked at his gang and said, Hey, leave him alone. We don’t need this. Let him go. Let’s go! We’ve got better things to do. The guy offered a few choice words and they all got back on their bikes and left. Even the young teens got on their bikes and followed them away.
I couldn’t believe it! It was like the Red Sea parted and we were free. We took the injured teen to our dorm and cleaned him up. He didn’t want to go to the hospital. All he wanted to do was get on his bike and go home.
Later as I reflected on that event I wondered, What does the future look like for those guys? Would they grow up to have a healthy family? Would they get a college degree and land a good job? Would they contribute to society and give back anything that would help others? Would they leave the world a better place because they lived? What do you think?
Is there anything that could change their destiny? If so what would it be?
The only thing that has a chance would be if someone had the relationship and the courage to tell them about the love of Jesus Christ and His gift of grace. Short of that I can’t imagine anything except more fighting, more drinking, more gangs and perhaps prison or an early death.
They had exactly one hope—a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve seen hardened criminals have their lives completely turned around by the love and grace of Jesus. Anything is possible and no one is a lost cause with Jesus!
(this is an excerpt from the Created to Live SENT series of messages, week 3, Love God) available here.