File this under the "I can't believe this but it sounds profound and I'm not sure what it means for me right now."
This past week I was preparing for our Wednesday night gathering. We have been doing a series on the Arts and exploring the gospel message in various art forms and artists works. Last week we looked primarily at a poem entitled The Rose That Grew From Concrete written by TuPac. This week was to be about stained glass. The premise was this: we must make the choice to come together with other broken pieces (lives) and allow God to unite us in a single piece of art that, when put together, tells his story of redemption and restoration. I was looking at Jeremiah for our text and I came across this revelation.
Jeremiah 29 contains the great "I know the plans I have for you" verse. I love this verse! It is a great reminder that God is in control. However, I had never stopped to see that this verse was set within the context of the Babylonian captivity. Previous to this verse Jeremiah begins to give the Word of the Lord to the people as they are living in captivity. This Word basically contains life instructions of how to live in captivity. The message tells the people to do ordinary things like plant gardens, eat what they produce, marry, have children, multiply, etc. The message is very clear that they are going to be there for a long time. However, in this midst of captivity, in the midst of questioning their identity as the children of God, the Israelites are told to see the peace of the city. Seek the peace of Babylon! They are to seek the peace of the people that captured them! The scriptures are very clear on this point: if you seek the peace of the city, you will live in peace. (29:7) This is very contrary to the "eye for an eye" theology that we are taught. Israel could have tried to stage a revolt, they could have rebelled, they could have done a lot of things that would have been motivated by their desire for retribution. Instead, they are told to seek the peace of the city that captured them. I find it curious that the verse quoted above (I know the plans I have for you) comes after this statement. It is as if God is saying to the Israelites, "I know that it goes against your better judgement right now, I know that you want retribution. Remember though, I am God and I am the one that will keep you." As long as the Israelites stay rooted in the forthcoming promise of God then the retribution of the moment must necessarily fade away into the present pursuit of the peace of the city.
Now, I am not sure what this means except that for me, I feel as if we are living in Babylon. Tony Campolo had this great line where he stated that he loves living in the US. He stated, "it's the best Babylon on the face of the earth. But at the end of the day, it is still Babylon." I agree. This is not the kingdom of God. This is Babylon. I have to believe that God has called us to accept the fact that we do not live in the fulfillment of the kingdom right now but God calls us to seek the peace of the city while living in it. What exactly this means I am not sure. I have some ideas, but I think that we are all supposed to work out for ourselves what the peace of the city looks like in our own situations, jobs, neighborhoods, homes, and families.