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A Healthy City

It is important to distinguish between a city on this side of heaven and a heavenly city. Primarily because, like us, a town will always be a “work in progress” until we arrive on the other side of heaven. There is much of heaven that we are called to build into the foundation of our cities, communities, and culture today. What could such a city look like?

Firstly, it would be a city that is taking care of its poor and its pained. Those who “have” hold a responsibility to help those who “have not.” The motivation for such care is love for our neighbor and understanding that giving and receiving is a healthy ebb and flow in our personal and communal lives. This must be done skillfully so as not to create a culture of dependency but one where all are freely sharing the various assets they have in contributing to the well-being of a community. In addition to taking care of the poor, we must always be looking to care for those who are experiencing pain. Whether it is physical or emotional pain, we all know that tragedy and difficulties frequently occur, and a healthy city takes care of its hurting. Our cities must be full of compassionate people and become known for their compassion. This is where the churches of a city must primarily engage.

Secondly, a healthy city is ever increasing in peace and prosperity. While I realize that these two traits hardly seem the most tangible, those who have eyes and ears to understand them must take frequent gages of them. Is there infighting within the city? Do people like each other or get along? Is there a corporate identity within the city that is agreed upon and noble? The answers to these questions and others can determine the level of peace within a city.

Regarding prosperity, is the city getting where it wants to go? It is growing – economically, in terms of its reputation and its righteousness (e.g., the way it conducts business, levels of crime, and the kind of establishments within it)? Because prosperity has a lot to do with reputation and peace is at its core relational, I would suggest that the second sign of a healthy city is found in the strength of the relationships that are shared around the community. Do people know each other, like each other, and trust each other? When they do, this fosters peace and prosperity.

Thirdly, as with anything, a city needs to have a clear picture of what it is and what it is not. Does the city have a plan to develop? Does it want to exist, or does it want to grow? Is it happy with what it is, or is it striving for more? What does it like to be known for? Who are the people of a city? The key issue and question here revolve around identity. What do we allow to happen, what do we not? What values do we want to embrace, and what ones do we not want to associate with? Healthy cities have a united understanding of their identity, and all the various sectors of a city (government, education, recreational, etc.) affirm this through their actions.

A healthy city is constantly engaged in acts of generous compassion, is held together by warm relationships, and has a clear identity that defines who it is and where it is going. When these three traits are in place within a community, I believe that the following will happen;

● The economy increases, and crime decreases.
● School grades go up, and social needs go down.
● People and businesses move in, and trouble and dissension move out.
● Art, culture, and reputation grow, and irresponsibility dies.

As people who want to see the Kingdom of Jesus come on earth, I wonder if the three ways that we can help our city are through leading acts of compassion, by facilitating, building, and connecting as many relationships as we can, and by serving to shape the identity of our city?

It is worth noting that these things can only happen as the Holy Spirit gets active with a city. Therefore, our first and continual work is a work of prayer. As the Holy Spirit begins its activity, not only will the above external changes to a city occur, but hearts will soften and turn towards the kingdom of Jesus. Ultimately, a city is nothing but a collection of people. Only Jesus can change the hearts of people, and thus, only through Jesus that a city can be changed.

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