Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where Now Shall We Live?

My wife and I live in the city. It's just your run-of-the-mill city neighborhood; not terribly affluent, but not a slum either. It's a mixture of races and ethnicities and social/economic statuses. We live a mile and a half from our church and 2 1/2 miles from our jobs, so that's pretty convenient. Obviously, the neighborhood has it's down sides too. Our home is not one that's likely to skyrocket in value over the next few years. The school district we live in is not particularly good. We're frankly probably more likely to be victims of crime where we live than if we lived in the suburbs. But I still like it.

I'd like to say we moved to the city for some benevolent, theological, missiological reasons, but frankly, we did it because we were needed a home relatively quickly, and we wanted something that we could afford without stretching ourselves financially. It pretty much fit all of those criteria. But the longer I live here, the more I think there might be something good and right about what we're doing.

It seems to me the suburbs have taken something out of our society. In our desire to flee the crime and taxes and busyness of the city, we've lost something. I can't put my finger on it precisely, but I think any time you run away from something, you also lose something. Decades ago, the "respectable" people begin running away from the city, and I think it has hurt not just the city, but the suburbs as well. The suburbs have become so safe, so protected, so sterile, that we've lost some of the vibrance and diversity and community that comes from city living.

I think this is also a problem with our churches. We've convinced ourselves that the best life route is the safest life route. We don't think Jesus would want us to take any chances. We think that the most important thing to him is keeping our kids and our wives and ourselves safe from any kind of danger, whether it be the danger that comes from living in the city, or the danger that comes from sharing our faith to a hostile world, or the danger that comes from packing our bags and giving our lives for Jesus in a foreign country. This "suburban" mentality has crept into our churches ever-so-subtly, but it is there, and it is dangerous. Frankly, it looks a lot like the luke-warmness that Jesus promised he would spit out of his mouth.

I don't want to give the impression that I think everyone living outside the city, or even in the suburbs, is living in the wrong place. I know of plenty of sold-out Christians who aren't living in the city, and they are missionaries where they are. I'm speaking in generalities here, because I think what I'm saying is generally true. We've not just made living outside the city morally acceptable, which is certainly is; we've made it morally preferable, which I do no believe it is necessarily.

I will admit that living in the city has not made me immune from this "suburban" mentality. God has a lot of work to do on me before I'll completely get over my desire to remain in my comfort zone, to follow the safe route, and to do the easy thing. I'm not even sure we'll always live in the city. I'm pretty sure we won't always live in our current neighborhood. But I desire to raise my kids in such a way that the call of safety will have no hold on them, that the call to God-centered, Jesus-exalting danger will pull at them like the proverbial siren song. If God wants Reed to go overseas to call people to Christ in some previously unreached people group, it is my prayer that nothing I have taught him will hinder that call. But to do that, I'm going to have to do some things myself that are beyond my comfort zone.

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