I've spent the last part of this afternoon with an uneasy feeling. Difficult to describe but it all relates to two incidents I've witnessed in the last couple of days. Let's start with yesterday.
I was walking home just as the schools finished and watched as one young man repeatedly thumped a fellow pupil. Not sure what the reason was, but he quickly got bored and as he dropped back two others came alongside the victim and told him what they intended to do the following day. I assume their target was the angry young man who was throwing punches a moment earlier.
I wondered about the future he faced, not in terms of the next day but his adult life. Would he end up choosing violence as the solution to his problems or was it just the kind of spat that happens. Who knows.
Then this afternoon I was in the coffee shop having a drink and a chat with another member of the church when in walked a customer who turned out to be trouble. He complained, swore at the staff and tried to cheat and steal in front of everyone. It's laughable really. He actually stole food and sat at a table to eat it. He claimed not have been given his change and when asked to leave it became apparent that he'd been drinking. Tempers were frayed and it wasn't going to be a neat resolution.
As he left another customer had a go at him for his lack of manners, not the wisest course of actions. He shouted, threatened, lashed out, spat and became abusive to understate the situation. The other customer shouted, scratched and didn't really help.
So how is a Christian supposed to respond in these situation? It's left me perplexed and disturbed. When such minor violence comes so close, it leaves me confused and dismayed about life and where we are headed. Wouldn't it be great to be able to stand up and say just the right thing that the drunk and the angry schoolboy would fall to their knees in repentance. But it hasn't happened yet. No one experienced grace, no one apologised for their outbursts. Life simply went on with everyone looking and wondering the same things, grateful they were not the object of his attack.
O that you would tear open heaven and come down and sort this mess out Lord. But then again, you did, and look what we did in response. That wasn't a pretty sight either was it. Broken, damaged people still need a Saviour. Broken, damaged people still fail to see. But that didn't stop Christ coming. It won't stop him now.
I did what I could. I tried to stand in the gap. I tired to be the man of peace although inside I longed to be more like Steven Segal. And even now I find myself wanting to pray for everyone caught up in it all. It's a salutary reminder that even in suburban Upminster sin abounds. In case, may grace abound even more.