In 1988, Father Gregory Boyle founded Homeboy Industries as a way of improving the lives of former gang members in East Los Angeles. Today, it’s the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. It stands as a beacon of hope as it provides training and support to previously gang-involved and incarcerated men and women; they learn how to redirect their lives and become contributing members of their communities.
Homeboy Industries went worldwide in 2014 when it launched The Global Homeboy Network (GHN), a blueprint for over 250 organizations and social enterprises around the world, including Canada. At its core, GHN works to widen the circle of compassion, tenderness, and kinship by fostering community, sanctuary, and family; and by providing hospitality and welcome to those on the margins.
Father Boyle believes that love is the answer, community is the context, and tenderness is the connective tissue. "There’s no us and them,” says Father Boyle. “There’s only us.”
There’s only us. Surely this is the approach that, we who call ourselves Christians, should be taking.
Instead, sadly many of us have adopted the spirit of us and them. We see how this has separated spouses resulting in children being separated from their parents. Friends separate from friends; Christians separate themselves from their God. I don’t mean separation brought about by gang-involvement or being put in jail, or the restrictions of COVID-19.
I’m talking about the separations that happen when people put Jesus’ words aside.
There’s only us and yet, here are common ways we contribute to breaking our relationships: we blame others instead of taking responsibility; we shame others as a way of getting back at them or trying to manipulate their behaviour. These are both forms of judging others which Jesus tells us not to do in Matthew 7: 1-5.
We withdraw our love from one another. This is against what Jesus taught.
Most destructive of all? We create a ‘them’ and ‘us’ relationship. They have their opinion, their way of doing things, and we have ours. We draw battle lines. We take up enemy positions. This is against what Jesus taught.
Jesus made it clear: we are to follow Him by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving one another as ourself. If we are following what Jesus taught, how could our relationships end up broken?
Based on Father Boyle’s over 30 years of experience, he believes that tenderness connects us to each other. There’s no broken relationships in tenderness. There’s no brokenness in gentleness, in goodness, in kindness, in faithfulness, in patience, in forgiveness that leads to our being forgiven.
Father Boyle says: “We imagine a world without prisons, and then we try to create that world."
As followers of Christ, what kind of world are we imagining? What kind of world are we trying to create?
May God help us to carefully, and purposefully, take our next steps in the centre of His will. Amen.