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Recently a South African born Aussie friend of mine posted a prayer (in the midst of street violence) for his birth nation on Facebook. His prayer was that “they will rebuild the ancient ruins and renew the ruined cities……” (Isaiah 61:4)
That is a great prayer, not only for South African cities but for all cities everywhere.
Rebuilding and renewing cities is the work of Christianity. Wherever the gospel is truly lived and preached, the result will be flourishing faith communities whose work is to restore the brokenness of their towns and cities.
It would be really something if Christians were known by the following scripture, also from Isaiah. This would make the church relevant.
“You will be known as Repairers of the Cities and Restorers of Communities.” (Isaiah 58:12b TPT)
This is the gospel vision which is good news indeed!
I want to suggest that this is the gospel Jesus lived and preached. He came with the good news of the kingdom of God to “heavenise” earth, city by city, village by village.
Jesus began His ministry with a jubilee message in his home village of Nazareth.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.” (Luke 4:18-19 TPT)
Jubilee was a time of community reset for the people of Israel as laid down in Leviticus 25:8-55. Debts were forgiven, the enslaved set free, etc. Every fifty years every town and city in Israel was to get a fresh start. This was a time of great release and joy for all, and especially those that had experienced hard times in community life.
Jesus began His ministry by declaring jubilee as the gospel, good news for every community. As recorded in Luke 4, Jesus travelled form Nazareth to preach in Capernaum. After a time of impact in that city He then said in Luke 4:43, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”
In other words Jesus apostolic commission and purpose was to preach the kingdom of God in the cities and towns of Israel.
His message was the good news of a jubilee community reset for all.
This was such great news for the suffering people of that day.
The people of Israel had suffered so much oppression under the rule of Rome, and many other tyrannical empires over hundreds of years. The poor were ground into the dirt, and if any dared to rebel they received swift judgement by crucification. Roman crosses were said to line the highways as a public example.
So when Jesus came with the promise of not only spiritual transformation but also social transformation, this was good news indeed.
The same gospel that brings individual spiritual transformation always results in the building of a loving faith community that in turn brings social transformation to the wider city or town.
This is the story of the early church as recorded in Acts. Thousands came to faith as the apostles preached, with a flourishing church established in city after city across the Roman Empire. Over time social transformation changed the face of whole cities and eventually the Empire.
God always has His big picture in mind even as He cares for and meets the needs of suffering individuals. The big picture of His love transforming cities and towns is good news for the individual because they then get to live and flourish in a community of justice and shalom.
Everybody would love to live in such a city, free from violence, injustice, greed, abuse and lust.
Heaven is such a city.
Heaven is a Trinitarian community of love, joy, beauty and justice. This is the reflection of the diversity of the God-Head who live together in perfect harmony.
On earth, diversity is often the source of conflict and disunity, but in the gospel humanity is reconciled not only to God through faith in Christ but also to one another. Reconciled diversity is the basis of a good marriage, good church and ultimately a good city. Through the gospel, diversity becomes our strength and joy, not our source of conflict.
When Abraham saw a vision of this heavenly city built by God, this became the basis of his long faith journey with his Heavenly Father. Abraham’s commission was the gospel, the good news that nations would be blessed through his descendants. (Galatians 3:8)
The DNA of God is to build flourishing cities, ie. communities where people can live and flourish as families and in every area of life.
So it should not surprise anyone that sinful humanity has attempted to build cities for the benefit of “man” but ended up with cities of violence, injustice, greed, abuse and lust, producing oppression, suffering and brokenness.
Undeniably modern cities look amazing on the surface and certainly benefit many with employment and lifestyle. They seem like shiny monuments to the brilliance of humanity and their ability to build these modern cities. Yet just below the surface are the struggling millions with the growing epidemic of family breakdown, poverty, abuse, prostitution, loneliness, depression, homelessness, drugs, abortion, sex slavery and the list goes on.
However redeemed humanity is called to rebuild and renew cities through the gospel. This means rebuilding community through the individual redemption of people and the restoration of flourishing community life. This is Isaiah 61:1-4 that my South African born friend was quoting. This is also the scripture Jesus was quoting in Nazareth.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favourable year of the LORD” (Isaiah 61:1-2a.)
Then in Isaiah 61:4, “Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
In other words, redeemed people rebuild cities, life by life, family by family until the whole city is impacted.
To repeat, Christians have good news for the brokenness of our cities. Imagine if Christians were working in humble unity to rebuild the devastation and brokenness that cities and towns are increasingly experiencing.
The Lord’s Prayer is that the will of God in heaven be done on earth. In other words the blessings of heaven are to become blessings on earth as the gospel goes forth. May christians everywhere pray and work towards the fulfilment of this prayer to see heaven impact the world, city by city.