8.12.2007

Letters to Cities

Last month, I finished my read through the first five books of the Old
Testament and have switched over to the New Testament and to Paul's
letters. For many modern-day American Christians, this is the sweet
spot of the Bible, in terms of quoting verses. And of course whatever
verse you want to quote is probably relevant to your life.

I'm reminded, though, that the original context and reader was 1st
century urban centers. Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae were
four prominent cities/regions back in the day, each with their own
economic, social, and spiritual issues, and each with their own
enclave of believers within that economic, social, and spiritual
context. We do well as 21st century readers to remember that context,
to make the effort to transport ourselves to that time's issues even
as we seek to transport that time's lessons to the present.

For those of us who live in and/or love cities today, these four books
offer perspective and material for our own urban discipleship. We can
hear Paul's exhortations afresh, as fellow urban dwellers: saying no
to the local deity and yes to a life of faith and obedience,
transforming urban systems with mercy in present suffering and hope
for future redemption, recalling a glorious, once-and-for-all victory
amidst what could easily be considered defeat and ruin.

Or we can do as far too many Christians do, and not dig very far,
choosing instead to lift a verse here and verse there because it's
inspirational or poetic. I hope I'll have the time, energy, and
hunger to dig deeper these mornings, and I hope other urban Christians
will too. For these letters to cities have much to offer us in the
way of sustenance and insight and hope, initially spoken to 1st
century urban places but still fresh for 21st century ones.

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