This leads us back to how relevant Jesus and the Bible are to violent young gang members today. What do you think Jesus says to them?
Firstly, Jesus has compassion on each of them. He wants to help them understand who He is and who they really are. Jesus is God. He made each young person in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He alone can help them to be free from the chains of sin and to experience life with God. Even one of the 12 disciples, Simon the Zealot, was a violent gang member. Yet Jesus chose Simon to be one of His disciples who was responsible for the spread of Christianity. Jesus wants a relationship with each one of these young people. He wants them to be His disciples today.
“Simon the Zealot, was a violent gang member. Yet Jesus chose Simon to be one of His disciples”
Secondly, we all have baggage. This can hinder us in our lives massively. Every person I have met has a story of baggage that has hindered them in some way. Baggage handling is challenging; whether it is something that has happened to them, their family, or their friends. The first step in overcoming baggage is owning it. Confession is good for the soul and being able to yield to God all of our fears, failings and sin is a wise move for anyone.
It is vitally important for the young person who wants to be a violent gang member. In my role as a youth worker, I have met some young people like this and often the root of their baggage is fear. Fear of being weak, or seen as weak; fear of ending up a failure (“not like my Dad!”). Psychology teaches that fear can easily turn anyone to fighting or fleeing. 1 John 4:18 teaches us that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.”
For adolescents, the fear of being alone is massive. I once worked with a violent gang who used to physically and mentally bully one of their members mercilessly. I asked the boy why he stayed in the group. He said, “It is better than being alone.” He truly needed Jesus to break through and deal with this fear. This is where the Church steps in!
“I once worked with a violent gang who used to physically and mentally bully one of their members mercilessly… He said, ‘It is better than being alone.’”
Thirdly, the strongest gang in the world is the Church of Jesus Christ. His family holds love as the key. The perfect love of Christ, shared by His family, is able to overcome all obstacles—even the most violent gangs and their members. Ultimately, fear is unstable as a foundation. The loving family of God is more secure and stable than any violent gang, because it is based on love. A tough and tender love that leads to an eternal hope (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). Not hate and fear. Not one that decays, as all gangs eventually will.
And yes, we all need Jesus just as much as any desperate gang member does. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We need him to lead us by His Holy Spirit through life and into our heavenly home.
Forever in God’s joyful heaven. Amen.