I live in parallel worlds, which is why I make my home in the city. Join with me as I begin a series exploring God’s plans and purposes within this human construct we call the city.
The city is a place of trouble, transformation, and triumph. It is the battleground between the purposes of God and the pride of humanity. Within the city, we can discover the story of redemption, and gain insight into God’s purposes as His glory radiates throughout the earth.
“… The earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord.”
~ Augustine, City of God
A HOLY PLACE
In ancient cities, the inner (core) city was a holy place, a sacred space that contained the city’s key places of worship, principle governing functions, and boroughs filled with the city’s elite citizenry. The core city was the seat of authority, and life radiated out of its boundaries throughout the outer city, which served as the seat of trade, and into the surrounding countryside.
It was the same way for much of the history of cities in the United States. However, in recent decades, for many individuals, the term “inner city” has come to mean a place of desolation. A place where crime, poverty, and despair reign. A place where the infrastructure is crumbling, where death reigns supreme, where hope is gone. That’s the nature of the city in history. Human corruption takes hold, power triumphs over personhood, life begins to wane, and for many a holy place becomes a hellish place.
WHERE LIFE BEGINS TO FLOW
But in God’s purposes, the city is meant to be a sacred space where life begins to flow for the benefit of all citizens. The city is the place where hope is born, culture encouraged, community developed, as God’s people, citizens of an invisible city “that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, ESV), serve the visible city empowered by invisible vision. These individuals believe that:
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
~ Hebrews 11:1
In the 1950’s and 1960’s many Christian congregations were guilty of a short-sighted rejection of this vision, as they fled the cities, for life in suburbia; embracing homogeneity instead of diversity, self-development instead of community development, and security instead of service.
COMFORT OVER COMMITMENT
The trauma of our cities had become too uncomfortable, and rather than providing hope within the city, like many Americans, Christians sought to build utopia outside the city. Grand suburbs were built, the infrastructure to support them was developed, the pursuit of the “good” life was encouraged, and increasingly Americans felt spiritually empty.
These Christians embraced comfort over commitment, turning aside from God’s plans for the city. Fortunately, not all of God’s children left the city, and as they worked to maintain life in the city, to pray for the peace of the city, to provide avenues of hope within the ruins of lost dreams, God began to speak to the hearts of others. They began to return to the city, they began to fight for the city, they began hoping for the redemption of the city. They decided to once again make their home in the city. And, others began to follow, began to work to rebuild the city, began to see the plans and purposes of God within the city.
Not all are called to the city, but the city is called to God. Might you be one of those individuals, called to take up the challenge to fight for the city? If so, I challenge you to answer the call, to join me in the city, to make a commitment for the good of the community, to help rebuild the walls that are broken down.