Why Be Positive About the City? Part Three: For the Gospel and the City

Why Be Positive About the City? Part Three: For the Gospel and the City

Why Be Positive Part 1
Why Be Positive Part 2 

timthumb2Revelation 22:14

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

If you read my post from last week I argued that the Scriptures call the followers of Jesus to be for the City. In this post, I am proposing that if the Church claims to be for the Gospel, then it must be for the City.

There are many reasons that the Gospel connects to the City, through its life, culture, and issues. I will propose three that relate most specifically to the context of York City.

1. Cities Are Meant to Be Places of Shelter

Tim Keller writes,

The city was invented as a place of refuge from criminals, animals, and marauders. By its nature, the city is a place where minorities can cluster for support in an alien land, where refugees can find shelter and where the poor can better eke out an existence. The city is always a more merciful place for minorities of all kinds. The dominant majorities often dislike cities, but the weak and the powerless need them. They cannot survive in the suburbs and small towns. Thus, unlike villages, cities are places of diversity.

The sad reality is that, while cities are places of diversity, the weak and the powerless are not all that ‘sheltered’ in the city. The city can be a grueling, violent, and tragic place to live. York City needs to look no further than the senseless death of nine-year old Ciara Savage, caught between the cross-fire of a gang war on Mother’s Day of this year, for a stinging example.

The Gospel is Good News; really, really Good News to those who are most desperate. In my time in York City, some of the most deeply religious people I have met are the poor who have no one else to look to than God. Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The message of the Gospel is unspeakably good news to the weak, imprisoned, powerless, and poor of our cities. So, it only makes that if we claim to be for the Gospel, we will be for the City.

2. The City is a Picture of the New Humanity Jesus is Creating

The City is a place of diversity, both ethnically and socio-economically. There are images in the book of Revelation (see verses 5:9; 7:9) that reveal that the eternal people of God are drawn from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Jesus is not in the business of creating His holy nation out of one national people or tribe, but out of all the tribes, tongues, and nations on earth. This explains His command in Matthew 28:18 to take the Gospel to ALL nations.

If you want to find the convergence of the world’s tribes, tongues, and nations, you go to the City. Major population hubs like New York, Chicago, and London, literally house the nations. Even a small city like York City houses people from many different cultures. Cities give us a picture of what God’s eternal city will look like.

One significant difference is that God’s eternal city will UNITE these nations around Jesus Christ. In fact, we should expect to see this happening in the Church, though sadly Sunday mornings in America continue to be the most segregated hour in the American week. The Church can bring the nations together only by uniting around the Creator, Jesus Christ. (See Galatians 3:28)

3.    History is Moving From a Garden to a City

The flow of Biblical history takes us from the Garden of Eden to the City of God in Revelation. There is a development that God intends with regard to humanity. Our final destination is not a garden, but a City. One may wonder why this is the fact, but I believe it is because we are made for each other. Human beings are meant to be in community together.

One of the big attractions for moving to the City was that people are out and about. They sit on their front porches, not on their isolated decks in their backyards. City people go to parks, walk to their destinations, and interact with each other. In the City, you have a chance to know your neighbors, for good or for worse.

The City is the ideal venue for loving your neighbor as the Gospel commands. Cities are places where churches should be planting, not retreating.

None of this positive vision of the City is intended to demonize the suburbs, as has so often been done by self-righteous City zealots. God loves human beings wherever they are and the Church is called to go to them wherever they are. As for me and my house, God has called us to be for the Gospel and the City.

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