Are you proud of where you live? I don’t know if you live in a city, suburb, town, village, or rural area, but is it “good”? Maybe you like the people or the society. Maybe the land and weather are beautiful. Maybe you just like the fact that it is home.
Or, maybe it’s not. If you aren’t excited about where you are now, have you previously been somewhere that you liked better? Would you rather tell people where you’re from, rather than where you are now?
When enough people live in a given location, there are probably those whose opinions about the region range from “love it” to “hate it”. One person might like the weather, but not the people. Another might like the location, but not the cost of living. In most cases, the glass is both “half full” and “half empty”.
There are plenty of cities in the Bible that were condemned for their overall behavior. Sodom and Gomorrah couldn’t produce 10 righteous men. Nineveh was going down the wrong path before Jonah caught an unexpected marine tour and told them to change. Even Jesus told His disciples to shake the dust of a city off of their feet, if its residents wouldn’t accept their message.
Still, it can be easy to jump straight to the “shaking dust off of our feet” step, when a city, country, group, or even an individual offends us. I do believe that there is a time to stop pushing a message when it is unwelcome (while still praying and looking for opportunities to resume the conversation), but the fact is, having people or towns “like us” is not our goal.
The author of Hebrews wrote the following:
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:12-14 NIV
For followers of Jesus, striving to live as He did (in principle; not necessarily a literal trek in His sandals), there is a dose of reality in these verses.
For one thing, people aren’t always going to like us. More than that, we may be scorned by entire groups of those who are opposed to Jesus and His message. Taking on disgrace for a good reason is not only humble and sometimes necessary, but it is also Christ-like.
In addition, we may have to leave the nice part of town to get the job done. I know that not everyone likes the big city (including me), but for city dwellers who feel comfortable in a place that has all of the conveniences that they need, going out to a rural or wilderness region can be uncomfortable. Our service to God’s Kingdom might take us to the other side of the proverbial tracks, or even to a new place where we don’t feel like we fit in at all.
When we are called to follow Jesus, popularity, prosperity, and “proper properties” aren’t guaranteed. We might live and minister in a part of town that isn’t as “cool” as luxury condominiums or high-rise apartments. We might get laughed at, called names, or passed over for opportunities.
Still, when the path given by our Lord goes into places that aren’t comfortable or popular, it is still the right path to take. In addition, even if we spend time (during this life) away from the perks of “civilized” or “popular” life, we can look forward to a new city: one without traffic jams or crime; one without smog and sickness; one where we are loved unconditionally.
So, whether we are serving in a plush environment or in a place that seems like a real mess, let us pray for the welfare of whatever place we are placed in (see Jeremiah 29:7), and serve Jesus wholeheartedly (see Colossians 3:23-24) wherever we are. After all, we’re just passing through, on our way to somewhere far, far better.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.