In But Not Of

How do I live in the city and not be overwhelmed by it?  How do I live in the city and not be consumed by it?  Is it possible to truly be in but not of? 

In our small groups at Redeemed South Bay we are going through Tim Keller’s book and video series “Gospel in Life.”   I have found this series to be both challenging and encouraging.  As a Christian in the city there are many things that may go against my value system.  How do I deal with these issues? Do I withdraw into my own Christian ghetto or continue to engage the culture of the city?

What follows are some of highlights from the first chapter of Tim Keller’s “Gospel in Life.”

Tim Keller defines a city as a place of density, diversity and cultural energy.

Referring to the Jews of the Old Testament who were exiled to Babylon Keller says that there were three ways to respond. They could:

1.     Move into the city and lose their spiritual identity.

2.     Don’t move into the city and keep their spiritual identity.

3.     Move into the city and keep their spiritual identity.

God calls the Israelites to something radical.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 (ESV)

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 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. 7 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."

God calls the exiles to serve the common good of the pagan city. He calls them to the third option. 

Keller states that under the authority of God cities were designed to be:

1.     Places of refuge and safety.

2.     Places of justice.

3.     Places of culture development.

4.     Places of spiritual seeking and finding.

But cities have been broken by sin.

Instead of their God-given design cities under sin are:

1.     Places of narcissism, classism, and violence.

2.     Places to escape from God and His law.

3.     Places of pride, arrogance and excess, overwork, and exhaustion.

4.     Places of cults and false belief.

How do we restore God’s design for the city?  Keller suggests 4 ways:

1.     Serve and love those who need love and protection.

2.     Bring God’s love, peace, and justice to bear on a broken world.

3.     Create and cultivate culture.

4.     Hold out Christ as the ultimate satisfaction.

If God cares about cities and the people who live there shouldn’t we?