Why Be Positive About the City? Part Two: The Scriptural Rationale

Why Be Positive About the City? Part Two: The Scriptural Rationale

Why Be Positive Part 1

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Last week I began to articulate our vision for why we think it is important to be positive about the City. This week I offer the Scriptural rationale for a positive approach to the city, beginning with the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 records these words:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah’s people, citizens of the land of Judah, had been invaded by the new world power, Babylon. The Babylonians came into the Promised Land and took the people of Judah captive and carried them into exile. During their period in exile, false prophets arose among the people of Judah who promised a short stay in Babylon. The LORD sent word through the prophet Jeremiah to tell the people that the false prophets were wrong. The people would be forced to live in Babylon for a period of 70 years. This period of exile was God’s punishment on His people for their idolatry.

A quick glance at God’s commands to the exiles reveals some surprising details.

  1. Verse four reveals that it was God who carried the exiles to Babylon.
  2. God commands the people to make Babylon their home by building houses, planting gardens, marrying, and bearing children.
  3. God tells His people to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon, not to war against it, because Babylon’s prosperity would mean their own.
  4. They are commanded to pray to the LORD for Babylon.

So what relevance does this have to being positive about any city in the 21st century? Two New Testament passages reveal that the LORD’s people are in a similar position today.

The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:11-12:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

In light of these passages, the people of the LORD today are called to a similar plan as the exiles in Babylon. Notice:

  1. Peter calls them “temporary residents and foreigners.” This world, like the city of Babylon, is not our ultimate home. We are foreigners or aliens in this world. In the words of Hebrews 11:10, we are looking for another city that is not of this world.
  2. The people of the LORD are called to continue seeking the peace and prosperity of their cities. They are called to live properly among unbelievers with honorable behavior (1 Peter 2:12), resulting in the giving of honor to God. Paul echoes this in 1 Thessalonians in commanding God’s people to live quietly, minding their own business by working to win the respect of unbelievers.

God’s people are called to worship Him in everything they do. But notice that the very act of worship for which God calls is actively seeking the peace and prosperity of our cities. Real worship means being other-centric, working for the good of our cities, praying to the LORD for our cities. Though we are temporary residents in this world, looking for a heavenly city, God never allows His people to sit idly by in passivity or show a lack of concern for our cities. If we claim to be for God, we must be for the City.

 Next week I will look a little closer at why the Gospel compels us to be for the City. 

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