Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Overcoming Evil With Good

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21, NASB).

This is from a small book by Joseph Stowell titled Overcoming Evil With Good: The Impact of a Life Well-Lived. I do not believe that it is in print any longer. If you can still find it, it's a good booklet, and it can be read quickly.

The Armitage Baptist Church is one of the leading evangelical churches in the city of Chicago. It is positioned in the heart of one of our toughest neighborhoods and is led by a second-generation pastor. On the first anniversary of the murder of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion clinic doctor in Florida, pro-abortion activists around the country decided to commemorate the moment with what they called a Night of Resistance. This Night of Resistance would comprise demonstrations to make a distinct point for their cause and profile Christians as radical, murderous elements of society.

Of all the places that they could have chosen to demonstrate in Chicago, they selected Armitage Baptist Church...

For years the members of Armitage Baptist Church have patiently and persistently established a beachhead for God by submitting the agenda and program of their church to the authority of Christ. The members have reached their culturally diverse Chicago neighborhood by showing hospitality to all who live there...

Members have unashamedly, yet compassionately, stood for righteousness against the powerful influences of gay activism and the agendas of the abortionists that are so influential in neighborhoods such as theirs...This would be unsettling for any church, but an especially unsettling prospect for a church located in such a volatile gang-ridden neighborhood.

A couple of weeks later, while returning from a trip, I picked up the airplane copy of U.S. News and World Report...the reporter was discussing the incident at Armitage. He wrote,

"...Flyers posted around town to draw a major crowd urged demonstrators to 'Dress to shock and/or impress, come in costume and show your rage'...A few demonstrators wore patches that said, 'Feminist Witch' and 'Support Vaginal Pride'...The most common chant was 'Racist, sexist, antigay/Born again bigots, go away.' The 'racist' charge is particularly weird: The Armitage congregation is roughly 30 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and 40 percent white. The security force on the steps seemed about half Hispanic...For 'born-again bigots,' the congregation has made an unusually successful effort to cut across racial lines...While the crowd chanted about racism, a group of young black men showed up wearing long red jackets that said 'SHS Security.' They were from a South Side black Baptist church, the Sweet Holy Spirit, and had come to protect a fellow evangelical church...Next, five yellow buses rolled up and a seemingly endless stream of people poured out...They were evangelicals from a second South Side church, mostly black families, showing up for the service. More than a thousand people were now in the church. The security men had been singing all along...Now, they gave way to a choir of black kids. The demonstrators were done for. The kids were too good and too loud."

I talked with Charles Lyons, the pastor of the Armitage church. He added a P.S. to the article. For days before the demonstration, demonstrators had canvassed every home in the neighborhood with leaflets inviting individuals to come and join the demonstration. In a neighborhood which is prone to positive perspectives on both the gay and abortion issues, one might have expected a pretty good turnout. But Pastor Lyons noted that not one neighbor joined the demonstration. I asked him why. He replied that the neighbors have come to know that Armitage Baptist Church cares for them and is concerned about their needs. When the Chicago school system could not open for several days in the fall of 1993 due to budget problems, the schoolteachers who attended his church volunteered their time and opened up an alternate school in their building for the neighborhood children.

Their good works not only silenced a powerful group of adversaries but created a neighborhood beachhead that even the most hostile opponents could not erode---a triumph won by the compelling power of lives well lived.

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