25 August 2007

The City: A King Who Stoops Down to be a Servant

Imagine a king who rules over the most powerful kingdom in the world. He has anything he wants. He has the biggest palace of all time. He has all the riches of the world. He reigns high and mighty above his people. He has all the power in the world.

Imagine this king, who has all and reigns over all, deciding to step down from his throne and live among the lowest people in his kingdom. Imagine a king who gives up all his riches to live among the poorest of the poor. Imagine a sovereign king who surrenders all his power to become vulnerable to the powers and authority of everyone else.

This is the story of our King.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [Colossians 1:15-18]
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]
Jesus created all and rules over all, yet He still decided that the best way to reach His people and show them His love for them was to give up all his power and riches to live among us. He left His throne in heaven to take on flesh and blood and live in this fallen world. This is the model of true love, of the servant king who gave up all He had to be with His people.

This is also the model for urban ministry, if not all ministries. It is commonly called “incarnational ministry.” Incarnation is the term for Jesus coming to earth in a physical body. The word literally translates as “in flesh” from Latin. Incarnational ministry is the philosophy that to reach people, we have to live among them. Dr. John Perkins wrote about this in his book With Justice for All:
How then shall we proclaim Good News to the poor? Once again Jesus is our model. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus relocated. He didn’t commute to earth one day a week and shoot back up to heaven. He left His throne and became one of us so that we might see the life of God revealed in Him.
When ministering to the city, it is quite impossible to serve and change the city from outside of it. Tim Keller says in his article A Biblical Theology of the City, “You can’t reach the city from the suburbs, but can reach all the metro area from the city.” If we plan to reach the people of the inner city, including the impoverished, we have to live life with them. We have to live in community with them. Incarnational living combines the mission with the wholeness of your life.

This means we give up the luxuries of the suburbs and the country to take on the life of the urbanite. This means that life is not about us. How can we learn to connect with urbanites if we live in our $200,000 homes on 3 acres while driving our SUVs to the local Wal-Mart in the suburbs? Our choice of where to live has little to nothing to do with our preference—it has to do with the need of the mission and where the masses are. When living to serve Jesus, comfort is not a factor. The mission is the deciding factor. The mission is why we live. The mission is where we live. Where we live is for the mission.