Twenty-five years ago, I heard a short prophecy, which was given at an inner-city church. The words still echo in my heart today.

“There is a voice crying out in the inner city, ‘I want to be free. I want to be free.'”

Aren’t all black Americans who live in the inner cities free? Didn’t the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ban discrimination against race, color, religion, sex, or nationalities? Then, why did the Holy Spirit speak about freedom in this prophecy for the people of the inner cities?

A dream about a white friend who had spent half of his life in prison will help clear up this dilemma. In the dream, I saw a close-up of my friend sitting on his prison bunk facing the back wall of his cell. He was weeping about being imprisoned and crying out to God for his freedom.

The dream zoomed out so I could see the whole prison cell. The back wall and side walls were built out of bricks with a small barred-window centered on the back wall. But the prison door on the front wall was wide open. All he had to do was stand up and make a 180 degree turn in his life to walk out the door.

Yet, he couldn’t do it. It was too big a mountain for him to overcome.

Why?

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. (Hebrews 12:15)

There’s no doubt my friend had been dealt a bad hand for his life. His dad abandoned him, his angry mom treated him poorly, and his brothers ignored him. His first attorney gave him bad legal advice, which resulted in him being sent to prison for 10 years for writing a bogus $25 check. He was an 18-year-old kid at the time and this was his first felony charge! Then his parents and family never visited him while he was in prison. The list of hurts goes on and on for him.

My friend ended up giving his life to the Lord while he was in prison, but he could never rid himself of the bitterness he felt toward his family, the judicial system and his dismal lot in life. The root of bitterness had wound itself around his personality and his heart.

To this day, I am still praying for my 68-year-old friend to be set free.

“Wherever we want to go, we can only get there from where we are. Not where we think we are, or wish we are, or where we want others to think we are, but where we are in fact right now.” (Thomas Sowell)

Seventy percent of black Americans live in America’s inner cities or the inner-ring suburbs. It’s in these areas where one in three black men can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetimes. Seventy percent of America’s juvenile arrests are made there. Over 50 percent of America’s homicides are committed there, most of it involving blacks murdering blacks. Seventy percent of the babies are born out of wedlock. Over 35 percent of America’s abortions are committed there. Black education is in a state of shambles for elementary and secondary schools in these areas.

These are the harsh realities of America’s inner cities.

Politicians, scholars, educators, columnists, economists, black leaders and others have suggested numerous plans on how to handle the inner-city problems. Their ideas always seem to involve spending more money, even though over $22 trillion have already been spent in the war on poverty since 1970.

Throwing more money at the inner cities in hopes of setting black Americans free from their agonies is just a splashier way of following Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s advice in his 1970 memo to President Richard Nixon: “The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of ‘benign neglect.'”

How much benign neglect can American politicians continue to pour on race issues without dealing with black Americans’ underlying problems?

Like the dream of my friend, black Americans in our nation’s inner cities are facing the back walls of their personal prisons built out of bricks of bitterness, anger and hatred. They must pivot around 180 degrees to walk out the open doors of their cells.

But like my friend, there is only one way to walk through their cells’ open doors. And that’s through forgiveness and repentance.

Forgiveness? Who do black Americans need to forgive?

Every white American. Every police officer. Every person they feel has held them back from being all they can be and all they can do with their lives.

Is this a mountain too big for them to overcome?

On the one hand, black Americans in the inner cities make up the most devout Christian group in America. There is no other group even close to them.

But on the other hand, they will have to swim upstream against their culture, traditions, personal feelings and most of their leaders’ stances.

I pray they succeed and end up revealing the Father’s heart to every American.

Related column:

“What happens when blacks forgive whites” by Mason Weaver

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