For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. Mark 9:41
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30
This I command you, that you love one another. John 15:17
This week, I had one of those connect-the-dots experiences that I fully believe was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. I read that federal health officials, along with the Philadelphia’s top government and school district leaders, on Wednesday during a closed-door meeting, pledged to boost collaboration around efforts to reduce soaring levels of violence in the city. Violence in the city of “Brotherly Love” hit record levels with 337 homicides so far this year, up 3% over the same time last year. That’s after homicides reached a record high in 2021, fueled by gun violence, which accounted for nearly 90% of the violent deaths in the city.
I read this news article immediately after I had read some history about the founder of the city, William Penn, and the prayer he prayed over the founding of the city in 1684. The prayer happens to be written on a plaque in the Philadelphia city hall.
He prayed, “O [Philadelphia] that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee. That faithful to the God of thy mercies, in the life of Righteousness, thou mayest be preserved to the end. My soul prays to God for thee, that thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest of the Lord and thy people saved by His Power.”
History tells us that King Charles gifted a vast stretch of land in the American colonies to the Penn family for the naval service rendered by William Penn’s father. He named the new colony Sylvania meaning woodland. King Charles added Penn to the name to honor the family, creating what we know now as the state of Pennsylvania. William did not follow in the footsteps of his father’s military career, but was instead caught up by the Christian reformers of his day. His zealous and passionate desire to serve God faithfully put William in jail 3 times for his protestant beliefs, spending 8 months in the Tower of London for his preaching against the church of England concerning religious freedom. He wrote the famous book “No Cross, No Crown” in his time in the Tower of London prison where he exhorted Christians concerning the fruits of a disciplined life.
His prayer and counsel written in their city hall are certainly a world away from the politicians and city leaders that are meeting this week in closed door meetings trying to find another program to stop the violence. William Penn prayed that the city would be kept from evil that would overwhelm it and be saved by God’s mercies and power. City leaders need to remember the word of their founder when he said, “True Godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it.”
The only hope for the City of Brotherly Love to be kept from the evil that would overwhelm it, is too once again live up to its name by returning to God. Godliness enables us to live better lives and can excite our endeavor to mend our broken world.
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