God told the people of Judah as they entered into Babylonian captivity to “. . . 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.” (Jer 29:7)
In the context of that verse, God is punishing the nation of Judah and the result is that the city of Jerusalem is under siege and faces destruction at the hands of Babylon. The people who surrendered to Babylon are captives and will be taken to Babylon to live. While we are not facing punishment in exile, there is a similarity in our situation in this world. Christians hold their “citizenship in heaven” (Phil 3:20) and are aliens, sojourners, that is exiles, on earth and in the nation (city) of our residence (1Pe 2:11). It is, therefore, safe for us to conclude that God’s instruction to Judah as they leave for exile may benefit us in our time here.
There are two parts to God’s instructions to His exilic people. There are two things we can be and should be doing as we are aliens in this world. These two things have to do with the welfare of the world, our nation, cities, and towns, and our welfare as God’s children. We are to SEEK and we are to PRAY.
Seek and pray for the welfare of the city.
We are good at praying. Let something happen and we offer prayers. Many of the Presidents of the United States issued a calls upon our nation to pray during certain difficult and perplexing times. We did pray. Yet, the world at large has a point when they ridicule us for sending “thoughts and prayers” after a weather event, tragedy, or mass murder. The Holy Spirit had James ask a similarly poignant question “. . . one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the things needed for body, what good is that?” (James 2:16). Prayer is not an excuse for inaction. To the point, God told Joshua on one occasion to stop praying, get off the ground, and get busy doing something (Josh 7:10-13).
Prayer is not an excuse for inaction.
The first thing we are to do is to seek the welfare of the city. To seek implies to pursue or work toward not sit back and let others, but to participate in the welfare of our residence. We can do this as volunteers, as employers and employees. We do this by working for the welfare of our country. We might participate in government as voters or officials. We might serve on the boards of civic organizations, city councils, school boards, PTAs, or county offices. We might find ways to make our voice known to those who sit in those seats. But we do these things not for our glory, but to make the place where we live a better, a friendlier, a safer, and a more hospitable place so “that we might lead a peaceful and quiet life.” (1Ti 2:2).
Then we pray! After and while we are working to pursue the welfare of our nation of exile we pray to the Lord for its welfare.
As I am writing this, I am reflection on social media posts, news reports, and conversations about the events of El Paso, Tx., Dayton, Oh., Chicago, Ill., and Vance, Al. All these cities or towns have one thing in common. Someone or more than one person, used a gun or guns to murder others. Some were arguments, some were violent crime or drug related, others were individuals filled with hate for others. We need to be praying, but we should also be doing our part to get to the root of the violence, hate, hopelessness, and lack of respect that infects our society. We need to be a part of the discussion and solutions to protect our citizens (provide for the common welfare) and to control access to weapons that inflict harm.
Together, with respectful dialogue, we can cut through the polemic rhetoric and find answers and suggest solutions. I have ideas. You have ideas. Those to my ideological right have ideas as do those to my left. Instead of fighting and pointing blame (which lead to increased distrust and hopelessness that feeds the violence) let’s work together for the welfare of our county and keep praying to the Lord on her behalf.