We live as the City in the city
This letter is for Cheryl Burch, who loves her children, loves her husband, loves her church, and is loved in return. In spades!
You haven’t been around church like you should, and I think you know it. I don’t want that to sound harsh—God knows I’ve missed a Sunday or two when I could—I just want you to know you’re missed.
Sometimes it can be hard to be around other people. Sometimes we feel badly about ourselves and think seeing happy people will make us feel worse. Sometimes we feel confused about why things are so difficult, and we’ve got no patience for the folks who like things the way they are. But in any circumstance, the thing you cannot discount is that—regardless of how small an opportunity we provide—God responds with precisely what we need.
I learned that at church. Not only did I hear it from some preacher or other, but I’ve experienced the truth of it. I’ve gone to church begrudgingly, hardly believing it could make any difference at all, only to have my world rocked and my faith renewed.
God cheats. You know he does. Just when we think he’s out of tricks, he pulls a fast one. To paraphrase one of my favorite theologians, God always shows up when we try to keep him out.
In the garden of Eden, God gave us a gameplan for how to live in blessing. It involved cooperating with him to spread his glory over the whole earth. We were meant to create alongside our Creator, to draw together the resources of Creation, to bring wise order to the garden, and to release human potential.
But we got off track. We usually do. The good news is that God has a way of setting us straight, sometimes even before we realize it. God keeps working with and through his church. He’s helping people learn to forgive and reminding us we can’t just sit around and expect things to sort themselves out on their own. God wants us to get back on our feet. He’ll help, but not if we’re just gonna watch.
Some people think nothing will ever be good again. They’re wrong. Others think the real answer to all our problems is to fix the government. Still others think technology will sort everything out. They’re all wrong, too.
The only way things are going to get any better—for you, for me, and for everybody else stuck halfway in-between—is if we remember God has called us to rise above our circumstances. We have to work even when we don’t feel like it. We have to try even when we feel discouraged. We have to believe even when we’re full of doubt. We have to give even when we feel poor. We have to love even when we feel hurt. We have to trust even when we feel betrayed.
You remember the guy I quoted earlier, my theological hero? In one of his books he says every time the church reminds the world that God is at work, “God gets a foothold in the world of man.”
God needs you to dig in your heels. God’s waiting for you to weigh in and help out. He loves you. We all do. But he doesn’t want to watch you sit in the corner by yourself.
Come with us.
”God intervenes in the world where man wanted to refuse him entrance.” Ellul, The Meaning of the City, 101.
”Falsehood is the foundation of both the technician who thinks to make a city the ideal place for man’s full development, equilibrium and virtue, and the politician who thinks to construct around giant cities the perfect society where men can get along without God.” Ibid., 131.
 “Not only do God’s people in the midst of the city already serve as God’s presence, but much more important, they serve also as the temporal election of the city itself, to accomplish God’s work…by this means God can get a foothold in the world of man.” Ibid., 90.