God loves cities and so should you

Sam T Varghese

06 January, 2023

Transcript of this message is also available in Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

“Rejoice over you” refers to spinning around under the influence of any violent emotion; that is how God dances over us. When the Word talks about dancing, often, jumping and spinning is involved. This verse in particular is fascinating, because when He looks at us and is excited about us, He jumps with joy. 

One of the things about us as Christians is that we want to be like God. When God created man, He made us in His image (the way we look) and likeness (to be like Him; to think and do things like Him). He wants us to conform to His likeness. That is God’s purpose and one of the reasons why we’re on Earth; none of us are born perfect, being born again is a process. 

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

Revelation 21:2

People often view cities as places that brood all sorts of evil. That’s just because there are a lot more people. God not only designs cities, but He loves cities. One day we will live in a city – Heaven. What is a city? A city is essentially a set of structures that is designed for the serving or common good of the people that gathers in that place. For instance, roads, shops and government are structures. Although cities are different, fundamentally the way how these structures are placed are similar. The characteristic of a city is that God gives it life; it does not have life by itself. We place these structures for our common good, but God is the one that gives it life.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Luke 13:34

In this verse, Jesus addresses the city as a person. Likewise, most prophets in the Old Testament have addressed cities as people. This indicates that cities have character; something that makes them unique. Just like how cities have life and character, we do too; we are fallen before we are saved. We were dead spirits that came to life by being born again. Although, there is still fallenness in us (our short temper does not disappear when we become a believer), we are redeemed. 

With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.

Revelation 18:2

A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great’, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.

Revelation 14:8

There is a difference between evil and fallen. No city is an evil one, even though there is a lot of evil that goes on in it. The evil stems from the numerous people in the city that are fallen. Cities are not our enemies; they are blessings that God has given us that has been infiltrated by evil because it was formed by fallen people – thus, there is a fallenness in every city. Many people are bound by the city that they live, this makes it hard to set them free. Corporations like hospitals have physical and organisational structures – some of them are welcoming, while some are not, based on its nature and character. Even church is a corporation that has life in itself. Because cities have life, they do not want to die – no matter how much they’re ruined, they will be rebuilt. For instance, Chernobyl is a radioactive city; it is not wise to live there. Yet, there are people living there because the city refuses to die. Only when God pronounces judgement over a city and curses it, will it die. There are many cities in Israel that are built on top of ruined cities, forming a mountain/ hill called a “tell”. Some of these tells are not just cities today, but are landmarks of historic importance. As believers, it is our privilege to redeem cities. It is not just cities that have fallenness to it, our workplaces and corporations that we visit have fallenness to it – we are supposed to bring life to it. The presence of God in a corporation “moves out” to other corporations and the city, to bring life in it. It is not our purpose to destroy people who do not like us, our purpose is to redeem them. 

One of the biggest failures through many revivals in the world was when the revival became a movement that formed more churches, seldom did these move out and change the city. For instance, there were 5 jails in a city with a very small population of around 35,000 people, due to its elevated rate of criminal activity. A 20-year-old long process of prayer closed down these jails because people were not even found drunk on the roads. Only when the city wants to be redeemed, will it be redeemed. Nobody who is sinking deep in sin is truly happy, they would want to be redeemed. Whether cities are redeemed or not, are in the hands of the believers; if they do not make an impact on their nation, it will deteriorate. God has made cities in such a way that when we are a blessing to our cities, the cities will be a blessing to us. Often, we as Christians are on a survival mode; we underestimate the impact that we can have on people, that will in turn change their lives.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Mathew 28:18

Jesus says that all (not some) authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Him. He urges us to go out and redeem nations, not to sit comfortably at our churches. 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Romans 13:1

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Romans 13:4

“Governing authorities” do not refer to Christian authorities (pastors and elders) – from traffic police to judiciary, we are bound to be subject to them. They may not be Christians but they are brought to power according to God’s will. As Christians, we must acknowledge that God is the one that has established these authorities – they might be people that frustrate you at the corporation or those that would demand bribes. Yet, we are bound to be subject to them. These verses align with Matt 22:21 (Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s). Governing authorities have the power to detect and punish wrongdoers and law-breakers. They are God’s servants/ ministers of God and God has given them the right to punish wrongdoers. Often, the church separates itself from the authorities except for perhaps one of the delegated authorities. We view politics and those involved in it as “evil” and separate ourselves from it. In this way, redemption cannot be brought upon. Structures in cities are designed by God for our blessing, even if it might not be the best structure – the extent to which we will be blessed is dependent on our impact on these structures. 

God has taken his authority and has delegated it to 4 basic structures of authority, so that we would not go into chaos.

  1. Family: God asks children to honour and obey their parents, husbands to love their wives, and wives to submit to their husbands. If we understand the structure of our family and follow it, we will be blessed. If not, it is a nightmare.
  2. Government: 1 Peter 2:13-14 (Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right) urges us to submit to the government. God has designed and established the government to bless us. Although the authorities may be fallen, it is our responsibility to change them. 
  3. Church: Hebrews 13:17 (Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you) asks us to submit to the authority of the leaders and elders. God has given them the authority to heal by the name of the Lord.
  4. Employers: Ephesians 6:5 (Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ) says that God has given authority to employers. Modern day slavery is how we attend 9-5 jobs and work like machines, as opposed to doing things we like. 

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

Acts 4:19-20 

There are situations in which governing authorities will urge you to violate God’s commands. In these cases, you are obligated to follow God’s commands. Still, bad authority is better than no authority – no authority leads to chaos. No authority does not guarantee freedom, it guarantees chaos. 

How do we influence and change the authority that is misusing their power?

  1. Love your city: If you do not love your city, you will not change it. If you just want to leave your city and never come back, you will not be able to make an impact. Hence, you will not be able to reap a blessing from your city. Often, we tolerate our city, we do not love it. Indifference is the absence of love. Envy is the opposite of love and from it will come fear. This love should be Agape (unconditional).
  2. Serve your city and serve in your city: Maybe God’s purpose for you in terms of serving your city is cleaning up the streets or taking a walk, praying for its people. If we serve, we get authority. If we just want the city to serve us, we will not have authority. 
  3. Stand in the gap for your city: The most important thing is to take ownership of your city’s sins, and confess it. Because you are a part of the city, you are accountable for its sin, when viewing this concept as a whole. If Lot was not taken out of his city along with his daughters, they would have been subjected to God’s judgement, even though they were righteous. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The sins of the city separate it from God in such a way that He will be unable to heal it. Taking accountability and confessing is not confined to just your city, it also includes your governing authorities. 
  4. Bless your city: Blessing is a key element in Hebrew culture. Once you have confessed, bless your city – by this, God will bless your city. Do not bless anybody in a way that you would not want to be blessed. Blessing people has a much bigger impact than praying for them. 

When Joshua went into the promised land, God gave him the right to kill everybody and kick them out. However, God asked him not to kill them immediately as the evil beasts will come into the land and because they have maintained the land. God asked him to leave the evil nations in their place until he was ready to take their place. In today’s context, how do we take the promised land from other people? We do not kill them; we kill the evil in them and redeem them so that they are used for the Kingdom of God. For instance, when you have an unbeliever as a Mayor, the easiest way to get a Christian Mayor is to get the Mayor in position to become a Christian. By doing that, you have killed the unbeliever and resurrected a believer. As believers, we are the only hope for our cities. Only when we make an impact on your city, will our relationship with our cities and the people in it be transformed. This in turn will transform us.