Gangsta Jesus Ways

One crazy night my senior year of high school my friends and I went around town “borrowing” elections signs from people’s yards. We then went to another friend’s house and decorated her lawn with our “borrowed” goods. I was simply along for the adventure and thought everything was being done out of good clean fun. It was only later that I realized that I had unintentionally participated in starting a war.

A feud with hormonal high school girls gets vicious and terrifying fairly quickly. I do not remember all of the hijinks that happened as the feud escalated. I just remember each attack would be matched and exceeded by the next.   To get the full picture, just imagine if the makers of The Godfather attempted to remake the teenage classic, Mean Girls. I like to imagine myself as Michael Corleone before his inevitable fall. Despite all the pressures attempting to pull me in, I still had a desire to stay out of the family business.

Of course no one believed my pacifist ways, and I became an easy target for intimidation and bullying.  I was constantly being cornered when my crew was not around, which was often. One morning I was confronted and threatened by the leader of our “rivals.” Terrified I was left counting down the dreadful minutes until lunch when I was left alone without any of my crew.

Unavoidably, the lunch hour finally arrived.  I think I was literally shaking as I sat down in my normal seat, which was directly across from my accuser. I braced myself for slaughter. Surprisingly, nothing happened. I was amazed, confused and for half a second believed the lie that this “mean girl” was intimidated by my very presence.

After a few minutes, I realized she wasn’t looking at me at all; her eyes were actually focused just behind me. I slowly turned around expecting the worst. To my utter shock, all my friends were standing around my chair. I realized they had all skipped class to serve as my silent body guards. (The fact that I hadn’t heard them or noticed their presence further reiterates my lack of gangster prowess).

To date, this moment is still one of the most beautiful pictures of love and protection that I have ever experienced. Now that I am a believer in Jesus Christ, it reminds me of a much truer spiritual reality.  We are all in a spiritual battle that we cannot see and we are incapable of winning.  There are spiritual forces of darkness that are wrestling for hearts and souls (Ephesians 6:10-20), seeking to devour and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). There is guaranteed persecution for the believer (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12).  Whether we are cognizant of its reality or not, all of humanity is affected by the battle. When directly threatened by these forces of darkness, that I am incapable of defeating, I am left shaking in my yellow-bellied boots.

But, like my surprising high school victory, God has been reminding me that left alone I will surely fall, but I have not been left alone.  He is silently standing behind me. There is an army of God that I cannot see fighting a battle He cannot lose (compare 2 Kings 6, Ephesians 6:10-end).  Christ won the victory for my soul on the cross. In light of these truths, when faced by the attacks of this world, I can say with the apostle Paul:

"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (see 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (see Romans 8:35-39)
In light of these truths: Jesus really has made an offer we can't refuse.