“Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
As I said back when we started looking at this verse, we live in the midst of a culture that is increasingly more like Babylon than Jerusalem. Followers of Jesus are becoming, if not a numerical minority, at least a cultural minority. And we are not just a cultural minority either. We are increasingly a hated minority by the cultural elite. So then, what do we do when the cultural elite actively opposes and even attempts to legislate against us at every turn? We listen to what Jeremiah says here.
Yeah, but there’s so much in our culture to hate, isn’t there? So much we need to reject? Things are so polarized. So partisan. How do we seek the well-being of our city? There’s so much we don’t want to see thrive.
Perhaps. But consider a couple of ideas that speak to the place God intends for us to have in whatever culture we happen to inhabit; whatever culture in which He happens to have placed us.
The first is just that: we live when and where we do and are a part of the culture we are because He’s put us there. Listen to what Paul said to a bunch of pagan intellectuals in ancient Athens: “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.”
If you’ve ever wondered why you live in the cultural moment you inhabit, the answer is that God put you there. On purpose. The question we need to be asking is why He did that. Why would God stick us in a culture that is turning away from Him and embracing such awful ideas, heedless of their eventual consequences, with such intentionality and even vigor?
Because He wants to see the people in it and even the culture itself reconciled to Him and He designs for us to play a role in that. Listen to something else Paul said, this time to the believers in ancient Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.”
God wants to be reconciled with the world that has walked, sometimes run, away from Him and He’s given that ministry to us. We can’t reject our culture entirely because God hasn’t. We can’t turn our backs on the people who are turning their backs on us (or else turning their rhetorical and legal fists on us—we don’t have anyone turning their actual fists on us yet which is something many of our brothers and sisters around the world cannot say) because God hasn’t turned His back on them. Their sin breaks His heart because it’s breaking their lives and no father wants to see His children broken.
But there’s so much ungodliness and unrighteousness in the world around us. There was when Israel was exiled to Babylon too. And yet God sent them there on purpose. Part of that purpose was to punish them by allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their decision to depart from Him which doesn’t necessarily square with our situation, but His intentionality does. He wants to redeem our world and He wants us to be a part of that. Right where we are.
And so we ask: What can be redeemed in the culture in which we live? What is good that we can celebrate and highlight in order that we might have more of it? Where are the holes and gaps that we might step into with the love of Christ to big impact? How can we lovingly provide another option in places where our culture is choosing something that won’t bring them life?
Listen: As the culture around us more and more wholeheartedly embraces things other than God and His righteousness, it is embracing death of one form or another. Our job is to offer them a source of life. The whole may hate us for it, but there will be individuals who are ready to live again who will come and listen to what we have to say. If nothing else, we must be committed to seeking the well-being of our city, wherever that is, because we live there and we don’t want to live in a place that isn’t thriving. Right?
So let’s do it. Let’s commit ourselves to intentionally join in God’s plan to bring the redemption of Christ to the world around us starting with right where we live. Let us commit not to hating our world, but to seeing it reconciled to our Lord. We don’t embrace what is evil, what the Scriptures clearly oppose, but we do embrace the people who are in it and for whom Christ died. We do it, we love our city, because we want to thrive, and when it does, so will we.