Shalom in the City
There is a song by a band named Leeland. In this song, “Tears of the Saints,” the singer cries out because of the brokenness and desperation all around. The opening line sets the stage for the entire song, “There are many prodigal sons, on our city streets they run searching for shelter.” He yearns for God’s glory, in essence his Shalom, and calls the ‘saints’ to guide the lost home. The pre-chorus grips my heart as the singer repeats “this is an emergency, this is an emergency.”
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of today’s issues. We can sometimes find ourselves asking, “How change can occur?” We see shootings, drugs, crime, and severe fractioning of the families all inside our city, and we may be inclined to back down, or isolate ourselves. Why fight? What will change? Worse yet, we may have become so desensitized or apathetic that we begin forgetting that we are the people God has called to GO and make disciples.
It is always easier to stay and conserve than it is to GO on mission. But GO we must!
The church is the people of God called to display the goodness of his reign to the world. It is the bridge of Christ formed through his reconciling death. It is the community of grace united by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the church that Jesus sends into the world and into our city and into the nations.
So what does this mean for us, what are we to do?
In Jeremiah 29, we see many of the people of Judah as exiles in Babylon, the capital city of their enemies. The Lord comes to his people through the pen of Jeremiah and says, “Seek the shalom of your enemies and the city. Seek the welfare of your captors. Put your roots down. Build houses. Get married. Start businesses, and participate in the marketplace. Give yourself to the prosperity of Babylon and you will also have prosperity” (Jer. 29:4-9).
Shalom can be defined as comprehensive peace. It is a Hebrew word that means far more than the absence of conflict or strife. According to Clifford Green, “this rich term fills out the word community by embracing well-being, contentment, wholeness, prosperity, safety, and rest.” So then, ‘shalom’ in the city can in part mean being a good neighbor. However, it is not just random acts of kindness that bring this shalom. In fact, we find that it is a matter of the heart where change takes seed. It is only change that first happens inside of us that leads to change on the outside. Eventually this change can work through us, manifesting itself in actions yes, acts of love to those around us. Love that is unconditional can simply mean feeding someone who is hungry, or giving someone a ride to church. For us Shalom is the essence of Jesus’ commandments and great commission. It is our mandate and the posture. This is what brings the true Shalom in the city.
The story of Christianity is the story of God bringing redemption to His creation. At the same time, there will be no Shalom if we do not GO. We live the Shalom found through God’s story and it then changes the city.
Let’s be a church that loves our city and Seeks the Shalom of the City!