“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7
Asheville is a great city. Nestled against the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this city has so many things to offer. We have great outdoor recreation options, beautiful views, creeks and rivers. You can find great food, great art and great beer (if your’e into beer) in this city. I love living here. I love serving God here.
Our scripture today from the book of Jeremiah says, that we are to seek to peace and prosperity of our city and to pray for it. Jeremiah was urging the Jews in exile to pray for Bablyon, to work for the good of that great but sin-filled city. Through the prophet, God was saying seek the Shalom, the peace, of the city you live in.
Asheville is like Bablyon in many ways. There is lots of sin and darkness here. There is lots of confusion and brokenness here. In many ways as Bible-believing Christians in Asheville, we are foreigners, aliens and strangers, in our own city.
Yet God didn’t say to curse the sin of the city. He didn’t say to withdraw to a compound and lock the gate from the sinners around you. He didn’t say to throw away your biblical values and Christ-centered community and blend in. He didn’t say to hate the city. He said to bless it and work for the peace, the Shalom, of the city. What does this really mean for us today?
The word “shalom” in Hebrew has no equivalent word in the English language. There is such richness and fulness in this lovely word. It is most often translated as “peace.” But this word means so much more than peace.
It means well-being, tranquility, security and prosperity. It means a manifestation of divine grace and goodness. It means harmony of relationship and harmony in the inner being. Shalom is the fullness of God’s goodness and blessing manifest in a person or place.
This is what we are to seek for Asheville. We are to seek the Shalom, the welfare, the security, the well-being, the prosperity of this lovely mountain city. Jeremiah told the Jews that in pursuing the Shalom of their city, they would find Shalom themselves.
There are two ways this is to happen from the scripture we read. First, we are to pray for the city. We are to invest time and energy praying and interceding for Asheville. We are to ask God to bring His holy light and truth to this city. We are to ask Him to bring His righteous rule to every heart, every household and every institution of Asheville.
Second we are to engage in bringing Shalom. What does this mean? It means that we are to be Ambassadors of Shalom. An ambassador is a representative of another country and culture that lives and seeks good relations with their host country.
We are ambassadors of the kingdom of God on earth. We represent the life, the light and the Shalom of that kingdom. We are not from this world, but are aliens and strangers in this often dark and troubled world. We live in Asheville, but our citizenship is in heaven.
This means we are to live and engage in the life and movement of Asheville. Live with the love and life of Christ overflowing from your heart each and every day as you work, recreate, shop, and play. It means to be an active part of bringing good to the city.
Let’s seek the welfare of Asheville today. Pray for the good of your neighbors and your co-workers. Go out into the city today with a heart full of love and compassion for the people you meet. Pray for their welfare. Do something good and benevolent for someone today.
In the welfare, the Shalom, of Asheville, we will find our own welfare. In this summer sermon series of Seeking the Welfare of Our City, I will be preaching several sermons on what this will look like practically for us as a church. Please pray that God will open our eyes and our hearts to everything this means for us as a community of faith.
And let’s keep praying faithfully for Asheville. This wonderful city is our city. It’s the city we have been planted in. It is our assignment.
Lord, bless Asheville. Show us how to love our city. Lead us, Father.