Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
This was the word of the Lord to Israel as the nation was being sent into captivity. We see even in that the Lord’s instruction to them was to “settle” into the land where he had sent them, be fruitful and multiply, and pray for the city’s welfare. Though Israel’s time in captivity was temporal, the time spent there had great purpose. Among many, one of His desires was for Israel to enmesh themselves into the community that he had placed them and to be light. In the same way when you look at the life of Christ he too did the same. His time was often spent ministering to the needs of the lost, spending time with unbelievers, and pouring his life into his disciples. Jesus, our example, inserted himself into the culture yet showed that he was our hope by who he was; the light of truth. He cared, he had compassion, and he served. In light of his example, His will was and still is for his chosen people to be a light in whatever situation he has sovereignly placed them.
If you would have told me 5 years ago that my family and I would be moving churches, experience the call for evangelism, and have our heels dug in within the city for the sake of the gospel I would have thought you were out of your mind. Just three short years ago my husband, Demetrius and I were hell bent on getting as far away from the city of Flint as possible. Our longing for “peace and quiet” coupled with our weariness from living in the city practically all of our lives drove this incessant desire to get out! And that we did! We embarked on an unsuccessful 8 month journey of searching for a new home anywhere except the city of Flint. By the time we began visiting Damascus Road church we were losing steam but still determined to find a new home. It was not until the Lord intervened convicting our hearts of our selfish desires and our lack of loving our neighbors did we realize that we probably would not be going anywhere anytime soon. We came to grips with the fact that it was obviously the Lord’s will for us to remain, however our hearts longed for something “better”. And so began the process…the process of not only remaining in the city but having our hearts planted in the city.
Over the course of 9 years living in our home we’ve sought to build relationships with our neighbors because of our gospel obligation. However, the last 3 years have been a whirlwind in that the Lord has strongly convicted and changed our hearts in how we fulfill that obligation according to the love of God. Our worlds have been rocked, our hearts have been captured, and our passion for the city and our surrounding community has been ignited by the Holy Spirit. We’ve spent the last 3 years continuing to build with our neighbors, loving and serving our neighborhood, and sharing the gospel; Jeremiah 29:4-7 has come alive for us! Just a few days ago, in conversation with one of my neighbors she asked me what size clothing my daughter wore. After telling her the sizes she excitedly explained how she often sees clothing in my daughter’s size at clothing giveaways and that she would be looking out for items to grab in the future. Though, by God’s grace, my children are not in need of clothing I was quickly reminded by the Holy Spirit that none of that mattered, what truly mattered was the fact that she considers me a neighbor and a friend and thought enough of me to try and offer help where she could. Praise the Lord; we have become a part of this community! We have by the miraculous grace of God been able to share the gospel and forward the kingdom of God and that’s what matters.
As we’ve continued in our efforts to reach the neighborhood our hopes have been to avoid being the “untouchable” “good” people who live on the corner but be a reflection of Christ interacting, feeling their infirmities, and being His hands and feet. I can remember as a child living across the street from a Christian family who I greatly admired and was intrigued by, but they hardly ever came out of their home to interact with the community that surrounded them. My mother, an unbelieving single mom, would have been greatly blessed by a relationship with this Christian woman who lived just feet away yet she never reached out. They were “untouchable”. May that not be said of us as believers. I pray that this passage will instead stir our hearts and give us even more of a passion to become a part of the community we serve and to seek its welfare. I pray that our hearts will continue to be rocked by the beauty of the gospel so much so that we have no other choice but to proclaim the good news! I want to encourage the body of Christ that as we move forward to take full advantage of the warm months ahead connecting with neighbors, hearing their stories, looking for ways to serve, and sharing the gospel of our beautiful Lord and savior Jesus Christ!!echo do_shortcode('[social_share]'); ?>