Matthew 4:8-10, Deuteronomy 11:24, Matthew 28:18-20

Tim Lucas exhorts us to get close to the people and places around us, and not try to reach them from afar.

Tim Lucas
Tim Lucas

Presuming you have a favourite place, the common likelihood is that you have visited there at some point. Whether it be a valley, a city, a National Park, or a particular pub or café, it becomes a favourite place because we have spent time there, and whether on account of the company, the views, the activities we carried out there, or simply because of how it made us feel, something resonated with us.

It would be an odd thing for someone to say somewhere was their favourite place because they had seen a picture of it, or read about it in a book; it really only occurs when we actually go there. And of course, when we say somewhere is our favourite place we mean we love it, for all its good and bad elements.

When Jesus spent time in the wilderness, one of the temptations offered to him was that the whole of the view he could see (the kingdoms of the world) would be his if he would bow down and worship the tempter. Underlying Jesus' response to the tempter was his awareness that to simply look at a place from afar is not enough to love it - one must go to it and spend time there.

That revelation is not independent from the rest of scripture: in Deuteronomy 11:24, God says that the places that will belong to the Israelites are the places where they place their feet; and at the end of his time on earth, Jesus tells the disciples to 'go', the original Greek of which is poreuthentes - better translated 'having gone'. There is an assumption that God's people will have gone - will actually dwell in and live in the whole world, not just in one spot looking out at the rest of the world.

It is this same understanding which brought Christ to us from heaven; not simply observing us, but intentionally living among us in order to show us love, mercy, and forgiveness. If we are to love God and worship him, we must love the places where we are - the world he has made - and the way to love them is to be in them. The challenge is to not be sucked into the opposite.

We are in our particular places to play a role in bringing heaven to earth where we are. Yet it can be incredibly easy to stand at a distance and view our towns and cities without going into the heart of them. But if all we do is pray from afar, strategize about missions from afar, keep up to date with news headlines from afar, then we cannot be truly said to be loving where we are and the people who live there.

Christians are called, and expected, to 'place their feet on the ground' of where they live; to be intentional about dwelling among the people and issues of their place; to be incarnate representations of Christ to them. As with favourite places, we cannot say we love people if we do not spend time among them.

Whichever phrase works best for you: 'placing your feet', 'being incarnate', 'being intentional', 'going into', the challenge is the same. Be active in your place, in order that you can love it and the people who live in it. 'From afar' will never do if we are to bring heaven to earth. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.