Wearing Our Colors and Living on the "Other Side"

Originally published in September 1996.

“Out of the corner of her eye, Lena Horne saw what looked like a small, dark-brown bag falling from the window of the 14-story apartment building at 3833 South Langley Avenue.It hit the ground less than 20 feet from her feet and lay there motionless amid the debris scattered around the courtyard.Lena thought it was a bag of trash.As the thirteen year old walked to the rear entrance of the building and banged on the door, a boy rushed up and begged her for help.‘Somebody just threw my brother from the window,’ he pleaded. Lena ignored him.

“An hour later, she went back outside and saw two children struggling with a pair of arms and legs at the spot where she’d seen the bag hit the ground.But now she saw a face, it’s nose and mouth smeared with blood.A tiny boy was spitting up teeth and barely breathing.Her screams brought the neighbors, the police, and an ambulance.They were too late.

Within hours, two boys—ages 10 and 11—were in custody, charged with the murder of a 5-year old Eric Morse.Police say the boys lured Eric and his older brother, Derrick Lemon, 8, into vacant apartment 1405 in the Ida B. Wells public housing complex on Chicago’s South Side and dangled Eric out the window twice.Derrick fought them, but the two boys let Eric drop to his death 150-feet below.The reason:he had refused to steal candy for them.”

I took this story word for word from an article in U.S. News & World Report (February 27, 1995).So many lessons can be drawn from this tragic story.One is we don’t know the value of a thrown-out bag that we step over.Some untapped potential may be in there if we would only take the time to look.Or another lesson may be what do we hold in our hands?Is it a life?Do we drop it or do we hang on with all our might?

Or this could be another editorial on the decreasing value of life.Or the increasing callousness of bystanders.Or the increase of gangs, crime, problems in public housing, etc.This could all be the Democrats or the Republicans fault, right?

I am sure this story will be told and exploited again and again and again.They will have missed the point.A child died.That is tragic enough.A child died because he wanted to do the right thing.

His mother must have taught him that stealing is wrong.It was wrong for him to steal that candy and he wasn’t going to do it.He wasn’t going to do it despite the harassments and threats.He wasn’t going to do it.It cost him his life.

If you are like me, you drilled into your youth group—in every conceivable way—right from wrong.As a parent you do that also.You teach and you show from example right from wrong only to watch your precious ones go off to school to be absorbed into some crowd that doesn’t know right from wrong.

So you preach, “Take a stand for Christ!”“Stand up!”“Make a difference!”And all you get are glassy stares and unbelieving looks saying “You don’t know what it’s like.”“These are my friends.My Christian friends stab me in the back.”“What has Christ done for me lately?”“Oh, how I know this.

For what to do about this right from wrong problem, read Josh McDowell’s latest book.However, I want to tell you one more story.

It is an understatement to say that I am a Minnesota Vikings fan.Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love Sundays in the fall.I get to begin the day with church and then I get to watch Vikings football.Those two together make it clear to me that Sunday truly is the Lord’s day.

Living in Virginia and in dreaded Redskins territory, it is a rare thing for Vikings games to be on TV.A very rare thing.Thankfully though, I have found the Northern Virginia Vikings Club which allows me to see every game.Every game!

Before I found the Northern Virginia Vikings Club, I would scour sports bars on Sundays looking for the Vikings game to be on.Often I could come up empty.Can you picture this lonely Vikings fan going from bar to bar dejected?(Don’t get hung up on me going to a bar now?)

One particular game I knew I could find.It was Minnesota against the Pittsburgh Steelers and down the street from my home was the Pittsburgh Black and Gold Club.So I excitedly dressed in my purple and gold and went to watch my game.

Well, the place was packed.And everyone was wearing black and gold.I was the only one there in my purple and gold (no exaggeration).I looked until I found one lone chair and sat wondering if I would be noticed.As if.The colors got me noticed but what really it was I couldn’t contain my cheers.The Vikings dominated (of course) and the lone voice told everyone in the club that I was there.

At halftime, people got up to order food or go to the bathroom or just shift and find space.Many people walked past me saying, “Wow, you’ve got guts to come here.”“I really admire that you can sit here with us.”Finally, I came up with the best answer to those comments.I said, “I’m a Christian so I live my life every day like this.”

What a truth that is.Every day we Christians put on our colors (or so we should) and sit in a crowd that is living on the other side.And if we are cheering for our Saviour, people might be saying about us, “Wow, you’ve got guts.”“I really admire you for being here.”

This is what our youth are dealing with every day when they go to school.They do not have the adult privilege we have of narrowing our selection of friends as we grow older.They ride the bus, share lockers, play sports with people on the “other side.”Sometimes they are the only ones wearing their colors and cheering for the Saviour.

Some are not doing it.It is easier for them to blend into the crowd.But others are doing it.And what a difference they are making.

By the end of that Vikings-Steelers game, the Vikings had won (of course).And instead of being harassed or thrown out of there, I stayed a while longer talking to my new found friends who had a respect for me.I believe that it was because I stayed a Vikings fan in the midst of them that I was able to share about Jesus, my Saviour.If I could speak to them about Jesus in Vikings colors, there was something for them to listen to.

How do you teach that to your youth?How do you teach taking a stand for right amongst the wrong?Do what I do when I go to preach to other youth groups.Pray a lot.Live your life like that.And pray that your words when you preach or teach or share or do a skit or stand on your head will penetrate past those glassy stares and touch a nerve.You will touch a nerve someday.Something Eric Morse learned touched a nerve.Let his death not be in vain.