Monday, September 06, 2004

Seeking the community's shalom

Post-home invasion/armed robbery responses vary depending on the seriousness of the encounter. What happened to us is nothing compared to the school-hostage tragedy in Beslan, North-Ossetia, but if I have to list the thoughts running through our minds, they would include the following:
1.Tell church members to be more careful and look out for suspicious characters

2.Fix grilles, security cameras, change locks

3.Hire a security guard

4.Reschedule meetings away from times when the block where we are located is quiet

5.Write to the press and express concern at rising crime rate

6.Speak to the MP of the constituency and demand action

7.Galvanise residents and businesses in the vicinity to consider joint action and mutual support

8.Move into a safer neighbourhood
Listening to a message from Jeremiah 29 Sunday was timely as it spoke to the trauma some of us suffered last Merdeka weekend. I think it was God telling us to look beyond our fears and personal security to meet larger and similar needs of the community.

Jeremiah’s word from God to the exiles was that the people were going to be in for the long haul. No quick repatriation, whatever the yearning for Jerusalem. Instead of merely waiting to return to their homeland, they were told to seek the welfare of Babylon: build houses, marry, have babies, plant, work – the sort of things you do when you put down roots. "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

The Hebrew word that the NIV translates as ‘peace and security’ is shalom (NASB - welfare). It’s a word with no English language equivalent encompassing peace, security, completeness, tranquility, safety, well-being, welfare, wholeness, etc.

I think all of the above measures bear consideration, but #3 seems a little excessive and #8 doesn’t seem right. Point #2 is a given, but where does caution end and paranoia begin? We are a small congregation after all. Yet, we’ve got to seek the ‘shalom’ of our community. We would be remiss if we cut and run at the first sign of trouble or inconvenience. If the church is to be a ‘city on the hill’ (Philip Ryken), salt and light, it will mean taking the hard decision and staying where the need is.

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