Hearing Dan’s message was a challenge for me Sunday. I was challenged by this one thought, “Do I love this city?” “Do I love Statesoro?” When I think about cities that I love, I think of several things:
What is the weather like? Is there snow? Can I ski there? Is there water? A beach? A river? Are there waterfalls to visit? What is the landscape? Beaches? Mountains? Skyscrapers? Do they have nice restaurants? Shops? What other attractions do they have? What are the people like? How do they drive? Are they friendly? What is the community like? Would I like to live there?
Statesboro is not big on a lot of people’s destination list. There’s not many people out there saying, “One day I’d really like to live in Statesboro.” It’s a pretty good place to live, but there’s really not that much that sets this city apart as unique. I moved here about 5 years ago, to help with another church plant that ended up closing it’s doors. For the past couple of years, since we left our former church plant, I’ve been really wondering if I want to stay in this city. To be honest there are a few other cities I would really rather live in. I mean, I’d much rather live closer to the mountains. And it gets so hot here. And there’s not much very special about living here.
Do I love this city? No. In fact there have been many times in the past couple of years that I have started clearly, “I hate living here.”
I have been so wrong.
I have been so selfish.
You see, all of my evaluation of Statesboro, and others cities, has been based on my personal preferences. It’s like I’ve just been looking for a good vacation spot, and not a city to truly live in.
There are many good things about this city. They is a good feel of community here. There are some nice resturaunts and shops. And we are home to the second largest college in Georgia. As Georgia Southern had grown, so has the city. But the city is about so much more than it’s attractions, it’s climate or commerce. The city is about people. Without people the city is just buildings and land. The city is where people come to buy stuff, to be entertained, and to connect with other people. The city is also a place of influence, where people influence each other.
Why should I love this city? Because Jesus loves this city. Because Jesus loves people.
How can I better love this city? By loving people.
How can I better love people? By genuinely caring for people. By caring for them, I don’t mean just taking care of people, but having a heart that feels for others, having compassion on others. As a Christian, I don’t need to to look at people in the city as those who are there to simply meet my needs, like fix my car, manage my money, feed me, and give me stuff. My job in the city, as a Christian, is to meet the needs of others. Primarily by bringing them the Gospel, in word and deed. But also loving them on a practical level.
Here is my resolve. To love the city by caring for its’ citizens. By having compassion for them. By not seeing them as a means to my own ends. But by seeing myself as an ambassador of a greater city, the kingdom of God, who is sent here to woo others to come and be part of a greater city. A city within the city.