A Gut-Wrenching, Heart-Breaking Story

Posted: March 24, 2009 by Scott Kistler in Urban Ministry...Concerns

In 1994, a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old tried dropped a boy of just 5 to his death out of a 14th-floor window in a housing project.  Prosecutors said it was because the younger boy had refused to steal candy for the older boys, although one of them now says it was purely an act of bullying.

The perpetrators were sentenced to prison after the Illinois legislature lowered the minimum age for prison-sentencing from 13 to 10.  The Chicago Tribune ran a story today that followed up on the two boys now that they have grown up.  They’ve both been back in prison since getting out the first time.  Even more disheartening is the fact that the victim’s brother is now on trial for murder.

Reading these two stories and watching the video interview embedded in the first story gives a survey of some of the problems of our inner cities today: family breakdown, the dismal failure of the Chicago housing projects, lack of education, and the difficulties that convicts have in reentering society.  Of course, none of these things cancels out the responsibility of the individuals to act morally, but they do provide the context for this awful crime.

How can Christians address the systemic problems that provide the context for the individual choices?  I don’t know.  I think that part of the answer has to do with getting to know our inner cities better and supporting those who are doing good work there.  It may involve more intense and intentional involvement by those who God calls to minister in the cities.

I know that one of the first reactions to reading stories like this and watching one of the murderers interviewed can be contempt.  Sometimes the victims perpetrators in this story seemed to feel sorry for themselves, and perhaps the journalist allows them to do that too much.  I can envision people reading this story and saying that the murders murderers are “trash.”

But I hope that our last reaction as Christians isn’t contempt, no matter what our initial, gut-level response is.  If John Piper is right that “All truth exists to display more of God and awaken more love for God,” then we can remember that Christ died for people just like these murderers.  I pray that they will come to a knowledge of Christ, in whom all of their sins can be washed away.  It’s their, and our, only hope.

UPDATE (6/5/09): I realized that there were a couple of mistakes in my original post.  I have fixed them while striking through my original text.

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