Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. . . . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29
I’ve been on a many months journey through the books of Jeremiah, 1 and 2 Peter, Daniel, and Revelation, gleaning from these the theme of our Jesus-following lives as resident aliens in our own present day Babylon. I was minding my own business reading through the Old Testament when I began to see how much both testaments devote to the Lord’s instruction on how we’re to live as grace-filled servant subversives in the hostile and toxic environment of this world system.
It sort of all began when I came to the ever popular 29th chapter of Jeremiah. I’ve always had an uneasy feeling about just about everything I’ve read or heard (until recently) from the “I have plans for you… to prosper you…” verse 11, but never took the time to stop and diagnose the feeling and study its cause. When I finally did pause for meditation, well, let’s just say I got more than I bargained for when a bunch of other huge chunks of Scripture became a lot clearer to me. It’s sort of embarrassing to me that I’ve come so late to the table on this – as in after dinner is over and the dessert has been served – late. Oh well, better fashionably late than miss the ice cream covered leftovers altogether.
Since my journey has taken such a long time (and still continues) and covers so much material in the Holy Book, I can only introduce it here and then share most of the rest of it in a few audio podcasts. Rather than slowing down to whittle the writing down to a sharp point I can cover more ground that way. In other words, I’ll sit in front of a microphone and spew streams of rambling consciousness in hopes that it all comes together and makes a tiny bit of sense.
To put it in a nutshell…
God sent prophets to warn the relentlessly stubborn and disobedient Jews that they were headed for Babylonian domination. They turned a deaf ear and he kept his promise. He sent them into an unfamiliar country with an unholy culture for an entire generation. But mercifully he provided them instructions on how to live while there and not lose hope of someday coming back home. His directives for how to conduct themselves in a foreign land in such a way as to make it a better place by serving and reaching foreigners sets the stage for Jesus followers living in our present day Babylon.
Instead of hunkering down in our Christian bunkers or blending into Babylonian ways or declaring war on Babylonians; as Spirit-saturated servant insurgents we can and must make Babylon better. As resident aliens, exiles in a foreign land, we’re responsible to pray for the welfare of our captors and show them a better way. We are not meant to mount armed insurrections or engage in guerilla subversion, but must behave ourselves as God’s not-so-secret agents, ambassadors to our Babylonish culture.
Jeremiah makes these things clear (read chapter 29 again and see if it’s true). I swear Peter must’ve been reading Brother Jeremiah’s book when he penned his two letters in the New Testament and John had to have been reading Jeremiah and Peter’s writings (sort of kidding about that) when he came to the end of his Revelation of Jesus Christ. You might take another look at chapters 17 and 18. I’ll do my best to unpack those chapters and others in podcast form in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, rather than accommodate ourselves to pagan Babylon or withdraw into our own our safe Christian ghettos, let’s pray and work for its shalom. In this Babylonish world but not of it, citizens of another place we’re here to make this place a little bit better. Aliens and strangers, but sent here to be Spirit-saturated servant subversives.
Like I said, keep an eye out for some audio talks as I post them in the near future. You’ll be able to find them on Musing The Mysteries.
Oh, just in case you haven’t seen a photo of my beautiful granddaughter, Aria Joy…