During the month of June at All Saints Dallas, we did a research series on theology for the city. Recognizing the vast change in the cultural landscape of our country, we must ask how we relate to the culture around us. Taking our cue from the Bible and from sociological trends, we see that God has always had a purpose for city life. The city has been a place of cultural development, protection, refuge, a capital for Israel and an image of heaven and earth come together. In city life, there is more diversity and density of people within earshot of the gospel. There is more potential for human flourishing, joy, community and cultural life bringing out the creativity of humanity. To be sure, there is also more opportunity for brokenness, isolation, fear and loneliness.
Jeremiah 29 is a key text for us to understand this. Though in exile, the Israelites were told to marry, have children, plant, build homes, and assimilate themselves into the culture without adopting the values of the culture. That image is encouraging and strengthening for us to engage with cities today.
We are indeed called to engage, and our engagement in this anxious age is made possible because our confidence is in the gospel. As believers and followers of Christ, we know that we have been loved, known and accepted by the grace of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can cease to be driven by idols of performance, approval, control, power, or comfort–the values of the culture. Because our confidence is found in Jesus, even when we fail Him, His love is still there, His mercy is incredible and His grace is profound.
Ours is a multifaceted Gospel. We learn to wield power through weakness and freedom knowing we have already been approved. To the marginalized of our society, seeking acceptance through community or wealth, we can show that the greatest problem is a broken relation with God willingly became unacceptable to the Father and to the world so that we could be accepted and adopted into His life. For those seeking pleasure, Jesus surrenders the pleasure of heaven and pays the cost of our sin, satisfying God’s holiness, and freeing us from the prison of our own pleasure seeking.
Let the gospel go forth.