When I was forced off of I-94 heading north from Detroit due to the crazy rush hour traffic, I chose my logical substitute, M-3, a.k.a. Gratiot. I have traveled this before a few times, a straight shot from the 94 Detroit Gratiot exit all the way to the family abode. This time it was different though, I had my urban planning goggles on this time, and Christ's mercy.
The trench freeways in Detroit that I have been educated so much about really do a great job of masking the truth. I have heard in class, even in my undergrad courses, that the design of the freeway system was to target the worst neighborhoods and clear them out, called urban renewal. Also, in my point of view, the freeways avoid the visual mess of surface streets and neighborhoods. It was clear seeing all the struggling people, the collapsing homes and buildings, the garbage and debris, that Gratiot in Detroit was not a pleasing site. The freeways are underground to allow for a pleasant commute between downtown and the suburbs, a way of getting around the 'mess.'
People (the suburbanite or the traveler) have hardly a visual for the blight of Detroit. There are rumors. There are myths. But there are hardly first hand witnesses. The freeways have covered up the true sights and sounds of the majority of Detroit, namely any area not downtown or midtown.
I wonder if this is a convenient way not to look at the results from the sins of the past. I know in my personal life I do not want to have contact anymore with the infection, to try to deny the scars from the sin in my life. But scars are scars. God has given me a clean slate, but I act as though there is something to be covered up, tucked away, driven past. The greater Detroit area shares the same problem. The sins of those in the past, the racism through real estate red lining, white flight, and resource redistribution to the suburbs, left a race of people behind because they were already behind. Scars bleed out in the form of the desperate and needy of Gratiot and the collapsing buildings. But you can't see it when you drive the freeways.
I challenge those who have not taken Gratiot or Woodward to downtown recently to do so. In the same way, I challenge all of us to truly examine ourselves in the faith we have in God, to see if we are thinking of ourselves so much that sin has bled through. You will see things that you don't like, but please do not confuse the sin with the sinner. The sinner has so much potential in Christ; the sin in fact needs to be cast away. Detroit and its residents have so much potential as well, its just that the sins of the past are more visible and longer lasting ones when the sins are made by a mass amount of people in a large public area. Kind of sounds Old Testament like, doesn't it?
Redemption is not far and not hard, but it comes with a great price. Ask Jesus what redemption cost for the whole world and all its sins. How much cheaper can redemption be for a city then? Or, what could the body of Christ do with that costlier, more powerful redemption working for it?