Choosing Hope Over Hopelessness

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Last year was a violent year for the city of Peoria.
The Journal Star ran a front-page article on Sunday called "Peoria's Deadly 2010".
They reported that there were 22 homicides, which is just one less than in 1989, the highest year on record.
On top of that, there were 117 shootings and 68 stabbings that were non-lethal.
This is tragic.
I'm struck by the fact that I can live in the same city as someone, but at the same time, live in a completely different world.
None of my friends have been shot or stabbed.
That is never a concern that even crosses my mind.
When a conflict occurs in my social circles, we either avoid the issue and pretend it never happened, or we have a difficult conversation.
Sometimes, issues are resolved and sometimes they aren't, but violence is never an option that's on the table for anyone.
So, how is it that within walking distance of my house there are people who see violence as a way to deal with conflict? I ask that question while knowing that most of these incidents are drug or gang related and that bad decisions were made long before the violent act occurred.
This fact only widens the gap between my world and theirs.
It would be really easy to just say, "those people are bad" or "that part of the city is dangerous".
Then, I could easily dismiss the problem.
However, I don't think that's what Jesus teaches.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about being a peacemaker and loving your enemies.
I've been thinking about this recently, especially in light of the recent Martin Luther King, Jr.
Making peace isn't simple or easy, but I think it starts with choosing to see hope in places that the world has dismissed as hopeless.
The small act of speaking hopefully about a neighborhood that is often looked down on or feared might be the start of making peace in the city we live in.
We are people who are called to participate in the redemption of all things, which means that we believe that no part of the city is beyond redemption.
The redemption of all things includes the south side, the East Bluff and every other part of the city that frequently finds itself in the news.
If you find yourself in a conversation where there is an attitude of hopelessness or condescension about a neighborhood, refuse to give in to that attitude.
Refuse to give in because as Dr.
King said, "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

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