During a visit to my family in San Antonio a few years ago, I was shocked and
saddened to hear of 3 murders in one 24-hour period. The news reports hinted that
they were all gang related. As my mother and I were talking about how crime in the city
seemed to be getting out of control, my then 19-year-old niece bounced into the room
and announced nonchalantly that she knew the 21-year-old pregnant woman that was
killed in one of the shootings. My niece shared that they used to dance together on the
same Christian praise dancing team.

She then explained how the one of the other two people that was injured also
had something to do with another fatal shooting last year. In fact, the same young man
was also the target of another shooting a year ago. And like this time, another young
woman was killed by accident, and he escaped with a few minor injuries.
I was fascinated with how my niece knew all of this information just two hours
after the shooting She remembered dancing with the young lady and recalled that it
was her boyfriend ‘s friend that was really the target of the shooting. Apparently, the
young man likes to cause a lot of “drama.” My niece wasn’t sure if it was drug-related,
but she figured that the boyfriend of her now deceased friend probably invited him into
the house.

My mother and I looked at each other and said at almost the same time, “It goes
to show that you have to be careful about who you hang out with.” My mother added,
“That’s why you can’t have everyone over your house. Not that you are trying to be
rude, but you have to be careful because you don’t know who everyone else’s friends

Later, I also thought about how the sad story is also a modern example of what
Proverbs 24:1-3 says why we should avoid troublemakers: “Do not envy wicked men, do
not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.” The bible also says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be misled: “Bad company
corrupts good character.”

Even what my niece said about the young man who was the intended target fit
the warnings found in scriptures about using wisdom concerning those who we hang
out with. We can be friends but as Christians we have to learn how to be a good
influence on others who may be headed down the wrong path without losing ourselves
in the process.

The past few weeks of media coverage of the violence in Israel and Gaza made
me think about how we can become “collateral damage” when it comes to the fights of
others. The long-standing hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians have resulted
in hundreds of deaths of innocent men, women and children who were seemingly living
purposefully but ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if we don’t
understand all the history between the groups and their struggle to live at peace with
each, we should pray that there is no more bloodshed on either side. Praying for the
peace of Israel, for peace in Gaza and for peace in the Middle East. May God’s mercy
and grace protect.

Shewanda Riley, PhD, is a Fort Worth, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving
From Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s
Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at preservedbypurpose@gmail.com
or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.