Saturday, May 12, 2007

The City of God

I recommend the following article to you:

In place of God
Culture Replaces Religion
May 3rd 2007 From The Economist print edition
FROM the earliest times, a central role of any big town was sacred or religious. Until the 16th century, the status of a city was in England granted only to towns that had a diocesan cathedral, and to this day the title metropolitan is in some churches given to senior clerics. Cities still tend to have bigger and more splendid churches, mosques and temples than do mere towns and villages.…

The article is excellent within the limitations that the author sets. He contrasts the role of religion, culture, and commerce as influences that draw people to congregate in the world's cities. Cathedrals, opera houses, and skyscrapers or shopping centers are cited as the icons established in major cities to suggest their preeminence in the various pursuits that we humans embrace to fulfill our "spiritual needs".

I found the article fascinating, but shadowed by the haunting emptiness of those worldly pursuits. The cold stone emptiness of great cathedrals. The sensory overload of shopping districts. The impressive, but very limited accomplishments of the arts, enshrined in museums and performed in opera houses or theaters. Even professional sports teams and their enormous venues are seen as the distinguishing traits of a true city.

Religious, commercial and cultural pursuits of the highest order may seem vastly superior to many other attractions of cities such as the carnal lure of the sex trade and sensational spectacles such as the gladiator contests (ancient and modern) or parades, demonstrations, and other mass gatherings. I have indulged in all of those pastimes and more. I was eagerly seeking fulfilment in the highest worldly attainments and the lowest vices that the great gatherings of humans have to offer. I enjoyed little success of a lasting sort.

I thank God that about 23 years ago he revealed the nature of the one truly significant city, the city of God. The citizens of the city of God are all who pursue relationship with God and trust him as the God who became a perfect and innocent man. A man (all man and all God) who willingly gave his life that we might be forgiven our many failings. The citizens of the city of God are those who share in the fellowship of faith in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Only God knows the exact population and demographics of the city of God. He encourages us to seek one another out, to love each other, and to proclaim our citizenship with the many acts of love and grace that God enables us to bestow on a hurting world.

Our faith in God as our saviour, and our love for one another should not be confused with the tedious, empty observation of religious rites and duties that many substitute for a genuine personal relationship with almighty God. He who created and sustains the universe and our very beings. Our faith and our love must inform all forms of culture or commerce that we pursue as residents of the cities of this world. Our faith and our love should preclude selfish indulgence in sexual immorality and a preoccupation with spectacle whether it be games, mass gatherings, or any other poor substitute for true fellowship.

The city of God is growing and prospering, yet it will not be obvious to those in the world who will carefully monitor all the wrong metrics: wealth, fame, sensual abandon. We will prosper as the genuine joy and the pervasive peace in our lives shine like a beacons to those seeking freedom from the fruitless pursuits of the cities of man.

If you are a member of the city of God, rejoice for your future is assured and you will receive comfort during the trials in this life. If you are clinging to the worthless idols that are worshipped in the cities of men, forfeit them that you may know the grace that can be yours as you submit yourself to the sovereignty of God. God who is love. God who longs to welcome you to his family.
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