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Several months ago, I disembarked a bus here in New York City, moved into a Brooklyn studio apartment, and began a summer of service here at First Things. These few weeks have been full of learning, educational conversations, and fellowship. Now, as I leave First Things and move on to the next stop in this journey, I’m meditating on our position as Christians in this world.

In Jeremiah 29, the Lord instructs the people of Israel exiled in Babylon to “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce….But 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 find your welfare.” This word, “welfare”, is the Hebrew word shalom—which communicates a sense of harmony, wholeness, and transcendent peace. The people of Israel, captives in a foreign and hostile land, are told to work and pray for the peace of their captors. Further, God instructs them to live in the city, to build homes, and to plant gardens—quite literally, to put down roots. The Israelites did not ultimately belong to Babylon, but they were in Babylon for the long haul.

Like the people of Israel in Babylon, those of us who publicly adhere to Christian orthodoxies are people in exile. We are citizens of Heaven called to serve and live in the city of Man for a time. Just as the people of Israel sought the shalom of Babylon, we must seek the shalom of our cities. And just like the people of Israel, we’re called to the long war. First Things is part of this mission, and we’ve been articulating Christian truths in the public square for twenty-five years. On the day that Obergefell v. Hodges was announced, one of my colleagues wryly remarked that we could publish First Things for another twenty-five years. Forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, our work defending the intrinsic value of every human being is not complete, and I fully expect that we’ll spend the next forty years defending Christian sexuality. All of us Christians are in this together, and we’re in this for the long haul. Our success in this endeavor requires faithfulness, hope, and dedication. Every single one of us has a place to serve. But as we go out and serve wherever we are called, I encourage you to meditate on the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.

[1] Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. [2] But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

[7] But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. [8] We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; [10] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. [11] For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. [12] So death is at work in us, but life in you.

[13] Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, [14] knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. [15] For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

[16] So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4 ESV)

Brothers and sisters, do not be tempted to despair, do not lower yourselves to using underhanded methods, and most of all, do not forget to place your hope wholly in our Savior. Do not lose heart, but focus your eyes on eternal things. Our Lord is faithful, and he will not see our work go without reward.

Matthew H. Young

Matthew H. Young is a summer intern at First Things. He has written for University Bookman,Civitas Review, the Carolina Journal, and other publications.

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