“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
When I found out I was moving to Ocala, it felt like exile compared to Brooklyn. According to my plans, I should currently be serving a small church in a big city, but God’s providence kept me here to serve at Good Shepherd. Instead of loathing the city I have been sent into, God has softened my heart to life in Ocala. As a recent college graduate, it would be easy for me to use Ocala and Good Shepherd like a stepping stone on the way to another opportunity instead of loving where God has placed me and serving with all my heart. I am delighted by the opportunity to work at Good Shepherd, and through my love of the community here, I have begun to love Ocala too. Loving Good Shepherd while loathing Ocala would be like loving a friend but loathing their kids. You cannot love and support a church while hating the city in which it ministers.
Too often we perceive cities and communities through the lens of how they benefit us instead of what we can offer to the bigger picture. Like I said last week, families and individuals who approach community based on how they can benefit create stale and cold relationships. Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in Corinthians fits perfectly with Jeremiah’s instruction to the Israelites. Instead of hoarding their gifts for themselves, both the Corinthian church and the exiled Israelites were called to go out into their respective communities and change the world around them through the power of God, not because they were great in and of themselves, but because God’s love and plan was much bigger than their tiny comfort zones. In the same way, God allows us to be a part of His big picture plan in Ocala and in His providence has placed us all here for a reason. Like John F. Kennedy suggested, we should not ask what our community can do for us, but what we can do for our community.
Where in your life have you been reluctant to plant gardens and build houses to solidify your residence? How have you retreated into your comfort zone instead of reaching out into the city where God has placed you?