5.17.2009

Christian Placemaking


One of the paradoxes about the Christianity I believe in is this: we are simultaneously called to make our home here on Earth AND consider that our true home is in Heaven. Christianity is one of the earthiest religions around, and faithful saints through the years have practiced radical obedience in the ways they make better and more beautiful the physical places in which they dwell and the people among whom they dwell. And yet Christianity also points the believer to a far better, more permanent home, one so wonderful it sustains the beleaguered saint through otherwise unbearable present suffering.

I fear too many of us, Christian or not, have those two callings backward. We all too often disdain our present places, treating them as temporary necessities, sacrificing long-term sustainability for short-term expediency, and perpetuating a throwaway mentality and a throwaway planet. And yet the promise of heaven grips us so loosely so as to have no discernible effect on how or even if we bear current anguish.

As an urban dweller, I aspire to be committed to my city: to seek in its "shalom" my "shalom"; to make it more beautiful, structurally and relationally and aesthetically; and to treat it as the precious and long-lasting entity that it is. And yet, I also seek to be ever mindful that this place is simply a temporary home; while my more permanent one is being prepared for me, I can endure hardship because something greater and more lasting awaits.

Of course, the two perspectives are not set against each other but rather entwined. How we live now will affect how we will live forever, and what we think of that forever life will affect how we approach the now life. Here's praying for a greater understanding of this paradox, of how the two perspectives intertwine, and of how to live life - in the present and for the future - accordingly.
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