“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. . . . 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.” (Jeremiah 29:4–5, 7)
If that was true for God’s exiles in Babylon, it would seem to be even more true for Christian exiles in this very “Babylon-like” 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 place where God has sent you. Think of yourself as sent there by God for his glory. Because you are.
Pray to the Lord on behalf of your city. Ask for great and good things to happen for the city. Ask that they happen by God’s power and for his glory. Never lose sight of the ultimate good that the city needs a thousand times more than it needs material prosperity. Christians care about all suffering — especially eternal suffering. That’s the greatest danger every city faces.
But neither God nor his people are indifferent to the health and safety and prosperity and freedom of the city. We all want these things, and Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In fact, the Lord says in Jeremiah that loving your city is a way of loving yourself: “In its welfare you will find your welfare.”
This does not mean we give up our exile orientation. Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). 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 that 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).
So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King.