How Exiles Serve the City
Suppose I visit a friend’s house and on my way out the door, I throw an empty pop can in the yard. You see me do it and say, “You’re not going to leave that are you?” and I say, “Why not, it’s not my yard.” Would you be impressed?
There is a similar attitude we must avoid when we think of ourselves as “aliens and exiles” on the earth (1 Peter 1:17; 2:11). Why not, it’s not my world.
In a profound sense this world is not our home. When we are away from our bodies we will be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We are not to be “conformed to this age” (Romans 12:2). Our lives “are hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We have been “transferred out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We have “passed out of death and into life” (1 John 3:14). We are exiles and strangers here.
How then are we to act in this foreign place? Should we be involved with the way this world works at all? Should we care about what happens here?
One answer comes simply from the Christian courtesy of not trashing another’s yard. Doing unto others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12) goes a long way in settling this matter. We would surely like exiles in our country to pitch in and do their part to make things work.
But there is more. God has a word for his exiles and how they behave in foreign places. The word is found in Jeremiah 29:5-7.
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; and plant gardens, and eat their produce . . . And 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 have welfare.”
If that was true for God’s exiles in Babylon, it would seem to be even more true for Christian exiles in this very “Babylonian” world. What, then, shall we do?
We should do the ordinary things that need to be done: build houses; live in them; plant gardens. This does not contaminate you if you do it all for the real King and not just for eye service as men-pleasers.
Seek the welfare of the city where God has sent you—that is, the Twin Cities. Think of yourself as sent here by God. Because you are.
Pray to the Lord on behalf of the Twin cities. Pray Metro-prayers. Ask for great and good things to happen for the city. Evidently God is not indifferent to the welfare of the Twin Cities. One reason he is not is this: In the welfare of the city his people find welfare.
This does not mean we give up our exile orientation. In fact we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from the “city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of the “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).
Let’s live so that the natives will want to meet our King.
Out of step for the good of the city,
© Desiring God Foundation. Distribution Guidelines
Share the Joy! You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org