How do we work for the good of the city?

In my last post, I argued that we should work for the good of our cities. Our work is important and we should be motivated to work for the good of our cities since our welfare is tied up with the welfare of the city. In other words, as the city prospers, we will prosper. Not only will we prosper, but the gospel will have a more peaceful platform from which to launch. If we want to see our cities reached with the gospel and changed for good, we should work for the good of our cities. (Learn more from my last post here .)

You may be “amening” me at this point. You’re ready to jump on board. But you might be wondering, “how do I work for the good of the city? What are some practical actions I can take?” I’m glad you asked.

At the outset, let me say that we aren’t to work to bring about good with violence. Violence never accomplishes that which we believe it will accomplish. Instead, we are to work for the good of our cities in other ways. Here are three ways you can work for the good of your city.

(1) Participating in Politics and Law making.

Before you completely write this option off, hear me out. I’ll start with a quote because I believe it sets up the idea well.

“True justice exists only in the society of God, and this will be truly fulfilled only after the Judgment. Nevertheless, while no society on earth can fully express this justice, the one that is more influenced by Christians and Christian teaching will more perfectly reflect a just society. For this reason, Christians have a duty toward government.”

 Robert E. Webber in Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner’s, City of Man, 27.

I like what this guy has to say. It is reasonable and balanced. He knows politics aren’t going to solve all our problems. But he also knows that societies that are influenced by Christians are those that operate better than those that aren’t.

That’s because, as this same author goes on to argue:

“Laws express moral beliefs and judgments…They tells citizens what our society ought to value and condemn, what is worthy of our respect and what we should disapprove of.”

 Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, City of Man, 31.

Think about the state of Colorado: Marijuana is now legal. That is a big deal. Not only because its citizens readily have access to drugs, but also because it influences Coloradans morality. Right now, some citizens may see the use of Marijuana as being morally wrong, but think about how people will see it in fifty years. As a generation comes and goes the view that it is wrong to use marijuana is going to fade into the background. Laws express moral beliefs and judgments, they tell us what we should and shouldn’t approve of.

While politics and law is not for everyone, Christians can’t neglect its importance. It’s one way we can work for the good of the city as we live in the in-between.

(2) Truly Living as Disciples of Jesus

A friend of mine asked me in the past:

“What if the world actually saw Christians living out their calling?”

The reason he asked that is because a lot of people who claim to be Christian don’t live out their calling. While they might attend church on Sunday, the rest of the week they go about their business as usual. They don’t operate out of a Christian worldview, allowing it to drive and influence their everyday lives.

But imagine if we did? Imagine the impact we could have if we truly lived out our Christian convictions in every area of life? One author presses into this idea saying,

“It is therefore the church’s duty to display in an evil age of self-seeking, pride, and animosity the life and fellowship of the Kingdom of God and of the Age to Come.”

George Eldon Ladd, A theology of the New Testament, 113.

In other words, we are to live in a way that shows what it will be like to live in the new kingdom. We are to be witnesses to the change Jesus can bring about as we live in the every day. If we do, we will have considerable influence in the community.

Another way we can bring about change is actually living distinctly Christian lives.

(3) Preaching the Gospel

I left this one for last because I believe it’s the most important and that which we should ultimately be working towards. While changing laws and policies can bring about positive change in a society, they don’t deal with the core problem, which is the heart. When the Bible refers to the heart, it refers to our inner-self — our will, wants, and desires. It is what drives us. Naturally, we are sinful people. While laws and policies can restrain sin, it can’t cure it. Only the gospel can cure a sin sick heart.

When someone believes Jesus is their Lord and Savior, they experience a change in heart. Their desires, will, and wants should change. Instead of desiring sin, they should desire God. That desire should continually grow.

It is that desire that led David in Psalm 51:10 to pray,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10)

Without his heart first being changed to desire the things of God, he would not have ever prayed that prayer. Nor would he have ever seen any life change.

If we truly want to make an impact on the cities in which we live, we need to preach the gospel. Telling others of the hope of Jesus. As they believe, their hearts will change, which should ultimately have an impact on the community as they live out their daily lives as disciples of Jesus.

Watch the sermon from which this post is developed.

We Should Work for the Good of Our Cities

As Christians, we should work for the good of cities. The idea appears sound. It appears that working for the good of the city is something we should definitely do.

But some Christians struggle with the idea. They would rather retreat from the city than work towards its good.

There are many objections we could explore but the one I want to tackle today is that this world is not our home. We belong to Jesus’ kingdom. As citizens of Jesus’ heavenly kingdom, we should work for its good but not the good of an earthly kingdom. Instead, we should distance ourselves from the world so that we are not tainted by the evil found therein. 

While some make the above argument, it is not biblical. Instead, the biblical view is that we should do all we can to work to bring about change in our cities now. 

Why should we work to bring about change in our cities? 

For the same reason Judah was supposed to work to bring about change in Babylon. As you read through the history of Israel, one thing becomes apparent — they were a rebellious people. Instead of worshipping the Lord, they worshipped other gods and relied on other nations to fight their battles instead of the Lord. As punishment for their unfaithfulness, God allowed His people to be conquered and exiled from the Promised Land. Israel was taken first by the Assyrians, then later Judah was taken by the Babylonians.

Right before the Babylonian exile, a number of false prophets told the people that they would come back to Jerusalem in just two short years, but that wasn’t God’s plan. In fact, Judah wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Instead they were going to stay in Babylon for 70 years (Jer. 29:10). 

While they would ultimately come back to the Promised Land, God didn’t want Judah to live as exiles. Instead he wanted them to take root. Jeremiah tells them in chapter 29 starting in verse 5:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf…” (Jer. 29:5-7a).

They were to take root — to have sons and daughters, to give them in marriage, and even to work for the good of the city. That might seem odd, but look at the rest of verse 7. It says, 

for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7b).

In other words, as the city prospers, they will prosper. As the city flourishes, they will flourish. That same idea applies to us. While our home is the kingdom to come, we live here now. 

Instead of living as strangers, as exiles, we are to take root. We aren’t to live on the fringes, we aren’t to pull back. Instead, we are to work for the good of our country, city, and community. We are to work for good because as the city prospers, we prosper. As the city flourishes, we flourish.

While we are here, we are to work to make things better. We are to show the world a sliver of the kingdom to come. As we do so, we will not only enjoy a better life, but we will act as witnesses of the kingdom for which we find our hope. Hopefully, others will find their hope in the kingdom to come too.

Watch the sermon from which this post was developed.