4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon,
5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
6 Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.
7 Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’”

What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world? In John 17, Jesus prayed for His followers, not that they would be removed from the world but that they would be protected from the enemy while in the world. One of the continual tensions on the Christian life is that of living in the world without being consumed by the ways of the world.

When considering this tension, it’s easy for many to assume that the answer is to remove ourselves from the world altogether. Maybe we would be better off to hold on until we die, or Jesus returns when we can be with Him and be free from the pressures of the world. However, this is not what followers of Christ are called to pursue. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet gave surprising advice to the people of Israel.

Jeremiah wrote to those who were in exile in Babylon. During the time of Jeremiah’s writing, there had been other prophets who had proclaimed that the time in exile would be short. In essence, they told the people of Israel to hold on because they would not be there long. Jeremiah had a different message for the people.

He encouraged them to put down roots in the area where they were exiled because they would not be leaving soon. He told them to produce further generations and to seek the welfare of the city. God had promised to bring the people out of exile, but it would not be in the lifetime of those to whom Jeremiah wrote. In light of this, Jeremiah told the exiles to seek the good of the city and that they would prosper as the city prospered.

We are called to do the same today. We are not to remove ourselves from the community in which we have been planted, but to seek its welfare. Ultimately, the welfare of the city is the advancement of the kingdom of God within the city. God has placed us in our specific community for His purposes, and we are to seek to live out those purposes each day. His return is certain, but for now we are to live faithfully for Him and the benefit of those around us.

• Where have you sought to remove yourself from the community around you in a way that may be self-serving instead of God-honoring?

• How would our city look different if we were people who continually sought the welfare of the city for God’s glory?

• Pray and thank God that He has placed you in your specific location for a specific reason. Ask Him to show you ways that you might seek the welfare of the city in accordance with His will.