I once heard a story of a young man who wanted to leave a gang that he had been involved in since he was only 12. At first a snitch, he had worked his way up to carrying small amounts of drugs for the leaders. At a youth rally, he had received Christ and confessed to his youth leader that he wanted to follow Jesus more than he wanted to remain in the gang. There was a tradition, however, that if he wanted to leave the gang, he would have to run between two lines of gang members, and they would give him the “beating of a lifetime” as his “payment” for abandoning the gang.
His youth leader went to the gang leader and pled for his young friend NOT to have to run through the lineup of gang members, but to no avail. He asked if he could take his friends place, knowing that since he was larger, he would be less likely to be hurt, and possibly be able to get through the line faster. The gang leader sized him up, and said, “No. This is something he has to do for himself.” The young man did, at 9:00 that night. He lost several teeth, received a dislocated shoulder, and had bruises and lacerations over a good part of his body.
As he lay in the hospital bed, he told his youth leader he had “never felt more like Jesus.” Astonished, his youth leader asked for clarification. “Well, Jesus went through extreme pain, and even death for me, right?” The youth leader was stunned, he had never seen such conviction in a 16-year old before. The young man and his youth leader went on to become powerful voices to some of his old gang members, who couldn’t understand WHY he would have voluntarily taken such a beating, for leaving the gang lifestyle. His testimony always concluded with these verses: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and keep you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Is. 41:10 and “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe.” -Prov 29:25