Jeremiah 29: A Biblical Framework for Place

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This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare. Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.

Jeremiah 29:4–7 (The Message)

Jeremiah 29 is the framework by which we understand God’s presence and call in the city. God exiled the people of Israel from Jerusalem to live in the land of their enemies, Babylon, calling them to make a home there generationally and to seek the peace of a city not their own. Understandably this is a place that the Israelites didn’t want to be. God promised that if they sought the peace of their neighbors and the land, God would bring peace on them, would shalom them. By God’s design, the peace of Israel and the peace of Babylon are intertwined and interdependent. The Jeremiah text details how God calls us from seeing place as a land of exile to calling it a place of home, from experiencing (and promoting) injustice to pursuing peace, and from living in isolation to being community. Our hope is found when we seek God’s peace and human flourishing together to be community in our cities.

Living in community among enemies is no easy task. This requires that we see one another as God’s image bearers, God’s beloved. It requires the recognition and practice of mutuality. The African concept of Ubuntu embodies this idea: “I need you in order to be fully me, and you need me in order to be fully you.” In other words, our lives and wellness are interdependent. Mother Teresa expresses the same idea in this way: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Our lives, our stories, and our peace are rooted in place.

God calls us to live in places (i.e., cities, rural communities, neighborhoods), to invest our lives, to build relationships, and to share the journey. A theology of place shapes our beliefs and behavior in and with the land and our neighbors. As we develop a theology of place, we become more deeply committed to the community that we have been called to live in and to seek its shalom. Shalom is a comprehensive concept that expresses society as God intended it to be, including a sense of wholeness, harmony, and justice. The church is called to be reconcilers and peacemakers in the world, in our specific location and context.

In the book To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City, Mark Gornik describes God’s shalom as a vision for all neighbors in the city. Peacemaking, he says, is a way for the church to be engaged missionally as the peaceable community even in a hostile environment. The people of God in Jeremiah learn to sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land, practicing faith by blessing enemies and serving the welfare of the city.

Jeremiah 29 challenges us to ask:

  • What does place reveal to us about who God is?
  • What does place reveal about who we are?
  • How does God call us to engage with place and live among our neighbors?
Mary Glenn

Mary Glenn is an affiliate professor in urban studies with Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies and also teaches at other graduate schools. She has been a law enforcement chaplain since 2001, currently serving with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and is the co-president of Cities Together, a faith-based nonprofit organization that resources leaders as they seek God’s peace in their cities.

This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare. Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.

Jeremiah 29:4–7 (The Message)

Jeremiah 29 is the framework by which we understand God’s presence and call in the city. God exiled the people of Israel from Jerusalem to live in the land of their enemies, Babylon, calling them to make a home there generationally and to seek the peace of a city not their own. Understandably this is a place that the Israelites didn’t want to be. God promised that if they sought the peace of their neighbors and the land, God would bring peace on them, would shalom them. By God’s design, the peace of Israel and the peace of Babylon are intertwined and interdependent. The Jeremiah text details how God calls us from seeing place as a land of exile to calling it a place of home, from experiencing (and promoting) injustice to pursuing peace, and from living in isolation to being community. Our hope is found when we seek God’s peace and human flourishing together to be community in our cities.

Living in community among enemies is no easy task. This requires that we see one another as God’s image bearers, God’s beloved. It requires the recognition and practice of mutuality. The African concept of Ubuntu embodies this idea: “I need you in order to be fully me, and you need me in order to be fully you.” In other words, our lives and wellness are interdependent. Mother Teresa expresses the same idea in this way: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Our lives, our stories, and our peace are rooted in place.

God calls us to live in places (i.e., cities, rural communities, neighborhoods), to invest our lives, to build relationships, and to share the journey. A theology of place shapes our beliefs and behavior in and with the land and our neighbors. As we develop a theology of place, we become more deeply committed to the community that we have been called to live in and to seek its shalom. Shalom is a comprehensive concept that expresses society as God intended it to be, including a sense of wholeness, harmony, and justice. The church is called to be reconcilers and peacemakers in the world, in our specific location and context.

In the book To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City, Mark Gornik describes God’s shalom as a vision for all neighbors in the city. Peacemaking, he says, is a way for the church to be engaged missionally as the peaceable community even in a hostile environment. The people of God in Jeremiah learn to sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land, practicing faith by blessing enemies and serving the welfare of the city.

Jeremiah 29 challenges us to ask:

  • What does place reveal to us about who God is?
  • What does place reveal about who we are?
  • How does God call us to engage with place and live among our neighbors?
Written By

Mary Glenn is an affiliate professor in urban studies with Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies and also teaches at other graduate schools. She has been a law enforcement chaplain since 2001, currently serving with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and is the co-president of Cities Together, a faith-based nonprofit organization that resources leaders as they seek God’s peace in their cities.

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