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Only One Thing Concerns Me, and It Isn’t Your Culture

I live in a small city and work in a rural community in Indiana.  And one of the most notorious characteristics of small-town life is the ever-present minority of malcontented residents who seemingly find their sense of purpose in running down their community.  Demonizing the lack of culture, refinement, and scholarship that surrounds them, they tell everyone within earshot how they can’t wait to leave.  “Small towns, small minds,” they conclude, living under the silly delusion that urban centers boast only open-minded, tolerant minds.

See, having grown up with a Dad in the U.S. Air Force and all its requisite transfers and relocations, as well as having personally operated a reasonably extensive itinerant speaking ministry for several years, I’ve experienced and been exposed to life in and around my fair share of big cities.  And despite being very content with where I am, I don’t fault anyone for preferring the energy, excitement, and opportunities of city life. 

But here’s the truth: you can find plenty of reasons to complain about where you live, wherever you live, because wherever that is, it is populated by fallen people.  It’s always a choice to be bitter and angry with your surroundings, and it almost always says far more about your own heart, perspective, and charity than those you can’t seem to abide.

Still, there’s also a lesson in Scripture for those of us who are believers.  The great Apostle Paul left his rural community for the big city of Athens in Acts 17.  Athens was the New York City, the Los Angeles, the Chicago, or Boston of its day.  It was a world class city – full of history and refinement.  But as Kevin DeYoung pointed out, Paul wasn’t impressed with its intellect despite the fact that all the great philosophers were there.  He didn’t marvel at its architecture, nor was he moved by its culture.  Instead, Scripture says he was “provoked in spirit” because he noticed how the city was full of idols.

Men and women of God are different.  We are supposed to be different.  We aren’t to be impressed by the same things that impress the world.  Our primary concern, wherever we live, is to see the Kingdom of God being built, to see it being advanced, to see it being embraced.  Where it is we rejoice.  Where it is supplanted by false gods and idols – idols of manmade culture, manmade philosophies, manmade interests – we have work to do.

The people in our rural communities need to be revived with the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The people in our big cities need the same.  For believers then, it’s simple: live where God has placed you, find contentment in your temporary circumstances, love people and work diligently to make Christ famous.  Unlike what the world can offer, that approach brings a joy for life not dependent upon your current residence, but your eternal one.

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