These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. . . . “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 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. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:1, 4-9 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
Once there were two men traveling in Scotland, and they came across a strange village called Brigadoon. Brigadoon wasn’t on the map, and everything in the village seemed to be the way things would have been two hundred years earlier. The two men were puzzled about this mystery, and they asked the village schoolmaster about it. The schoolmaster told them that the minister of the village had been worried about the way the world was changing, and before he died he had prayed for a miracle. He asked for Brigadoon to disappear into the mist, and only to appear for one day every hundred years. None of the villagers were allowed to leave Brigadoon, because that would end the miracle. The old minister of Brigadoon had wanted to protect his people from the evil of the world by keeping his people safe and separate from the rest of the world.
When the king of Judah and many of the people were taken into exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to them. He warned them not to believe in the lies of the false prophets who said that they would be coming home soon. He told them that they would be staying in Babylon for a long time, and that they should build houses and have families and plant gardens. They should do everything they could to help the people in the places they were staying, and they were to pray to the Lord to bless these people. Whatever was good for the cities they were living in would be good for them as well, because these cities were going to be their homes for a long time. They didn’t have to try to stay separate from the Babylonians, but instead work with them to make a good life for everyone.
This is the same way God wants Christians to live in the world today. We have to be careful to stay away from what is evil and rebellious against God, but we don’t have to stay away from people who aren’t Christians. Our home is going to be in this world until we die or until Jesus comes back, and what is good for the other people in the world is good for us too. God wants his people to work with others for peace and safety and justice. We honor the Lord when we work for good in his world.
Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be God’s people, and Jesus died for everyone in the world. That’s why it’s important for Christians to live and work and play with others, and not just keep to themselves. Jesus said we are to be like light, doing good for others so that they can see what our God is like. The Lord can work through our words and actions and prayers to bring other people to himself, and that’s the best reason of all not to separate ourselves from the rest of the world.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to live and work well with others so that they can see how good you are, and so that you can bring others into your family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Minnelli, Vincente, dir. Brigadoon Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1954. Film.