The Apostle Paul wrote that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12,NIV)
This boy and his father were battling forces beyond their control. People, often, find themselves in terrible plight due to the powers that make decisions that impact all of our lives.
These decisions include deed restrictions that insured some neighborhoods would remain “white.” Unrestricted neighborhoods would have smaller lots, poorly built homes, inferior roads, sewage and other municipal services. These deed restrictions were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1948 (Shelley v. Kraemer) but the damage was done. When you realize that the majority of most American's wealth is invested in their homes, you can see the long-lasting implications of this policy.
Another such decision occurred when the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was created in 1934 to encourage home ownership during the Great Depression by guaranteeing bank loans. They green lined (approved) mortgages for new construction in the suburbs and red lined (declined) mortgages in inner-city areas with high crime rates, poor housing stock, and poor infrastructure. Those who could, moved out. Only the poorest remained. A lower tax base impacted the quality of schools trapping families into generational poverty.
In 2012, Pew Research named San Antonio the most economically segregated city in America. The south side has high unemployment, low high school graduation, few job opportunities, lack of nearby fresh food markets and healthcare, large numbers of people receiving government assistance. DiversityDataKids.org has declared the south side a low opportunity area for children, increasing vulnerability to human trafficking and drug addiction. A child born and raised in 78210 has a life expectancy 20 years shorter than one born & raised in the north side.
Like Jesus' disciples, non-profits, government agencies and churches want to help but seem to fall short. Donor contributions and tax dollars fund programs that show promise but generational poverty continues.
It is possible to overcome these unseen forces. Two Baptist Temple youth, who grew up on the south side and graduated from south side high schools, each received full scholarships to private universities in San Antonio. The resources to succeed are available on the south side. The key is to encourage more kids to take advantage of them.
Jesus succeeded where the disciples failed. Later, he would tell them that “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29, NIV)
Spiritual weapons are required to fight spiritual battles. Jesus did three things in this passage:
- He REBUKED the spirit. We need to speak out against injustices that bring harm to vulnerable people.
- He HEALED the boy. We need to bring healing to the people of our communities through mentoring relationships that minister to physical and spiritual needs.
- He RETURNED the boy to his father. We need to restore families, not replace them.
The crowd that had gathered to mock the disciples for their failure, now were amazed at God's greatness. The church is at its best when it brings healing to our fallen world.