FAITH TODAY: Seek the peace of the city
By Graham McMahon
Church of the Nazarene
Imagine a foreign power came into your city and forcibly took you, your family, and all the people captive and moved you to a far-off city in another country. I don’t know about you, but I would feel homesick pretty quick and I’d probably have a lot of resentment towards my captors.
If you can imagine this scenario, this is what happened to the people of Judah starting in the late 590s B.C. When the Babylonians conquered Judah, much of the population was forcibly resettled 1,100 kilometres east in the city of Babylon. This policy of forced repatriation is known as exile and these exiles felt humiliated, abandoned, confused, resentful towards their captors and they wanted to go home.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the first group of exiles in which he delivered some surprising news. If the exiles were hoping to go home soon, they shouldn’t hold their breath. It would be two generations before they would see their homeland. God wanted them to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, and grow their families.
The next exhortation was a shocking one: “But 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” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Welfare is an English translation of the Hebrew word, “shalom.” This word means “holistic peace,” as in peace in every aspect of life: physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, economically and environmentally. So, the verse can be translated, “But seek the peace of the city . . . and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace.”
Can you imagine? You, your family, and all your neighbours have been taken from your home and forbidden to go back and you are to seek the peace of the city that holds you captive and pray for it! That’s a remarkable picture of what kind of people God was calling these exiles to be.
Which brings me to us. Now I know we are not political exiles here in Chilliwack. In fact, if we moved here from somewhere else, it was by choice. We want to live here. I don’t tell this story to draw parallels to exiles. Instead, I tell this story to say that if God called exiles to seek the peace of the city they had been forcibly taken to, then we who chose to live in Chilliwack have even more reason to seek the peace of the city.
And we shouldn’t see a self-serving motivation here, but an intimate connection between the peace of our city and our own peace. If we help to mend broken relationships, bring economic justice, and create cleaner parks, rivers and neighbourhoods, then we will experience peace for ourselves.
Here are some simple things we can do to seek the peace of Chilliwack: pray for our city and its leaders, partner with people or organizations who seek to bring peace to our city, get to know our neighbours, shop locally whenever possible, and seek to understand one another when there are differences. God calls us to seek the peace of our city and when we do, we will experience peace for ourselves.
• Graham McMahon is a pastor serving the Chilliwack Church of the Nazarene. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.