Christians may be in the minority, but we can still work for the good of wherever we are, says Sam Brown. If we do so, we’ll bring God’s shalom to a disillusioned and hurting world this Lent


Source: Ricky Esquivel:

Around 600 BC, things weren’t going well for God’s people. Invasion, occupation and deportation at the hands of the Babylonians made for a truly dark period for Israel. For the people being exiled, this would have felt like the end of their national story, possibly even of God’s goodness. Scattered across the surrounding nations, they were struggling to keep trusting him.

They were strangers in a foreign land. To a degree, we might be able to relate. Although - by God’s grace - we’re still safe and secure in a country built on Christian principles, in our workplaces, friendship groups and even families, people with an active faith in God are often in the minority.

With that in mind, we can read the words of Jeremiah 29:5–9, offered to these exiles, and find wisdom for our own lives today. Here’s two key learnings.

Be an agent of shalom

In many translations, we read Jeremiah commanding the exiles to work for the “peace and prosperity” of the places they find themselves. This phrase is drawn from the Hebrew word shalom. You may have heard this term before, perhaps used to mean ‘peace’ or as a greeting. Shalom does indeed mean peace, but it’s a peace that’s about far more than a mere absence of violence. It’s peace in the sense of wholeness, completeness, welfare, and an opportunity for everyone to flourish at the expense of no one.

We must not forget who we are or, more pertinently, whose we are

The deported individuals might have been tempted to put the barricades up, keeping themselves to themselves. Their new neighbours would have viewed them at best with suspicion and at worst with hatred. But we’re told that this wasn’t God’s purpose for his people. Instead, they are directed to be active members of their local communities: to work for the peace, wholeness and completeness of everyone around them. In doing so, they would also flourish. Put simply, they’re to be agents of shalom.

An intentionally kind comment here, an act of love there – to a person who just got publicly embarrassed in a meeting or someone who’s taken the brunt of the banter in the group chat – this is the work of a person dedicated to the shalom of the world around them.

Be faithful and undistracted

For the exiled Israelites, being active, involved members of their new communities was vital, but it didn’t come without its perils.

When we spend a lot of time around people, we pick up things from them. Some of these are good - joyfulness, humour, kindness - but others might be not so good, such as jealousy, deceitfulness or cruelty towards an individual or group.

For the exiles, Jeremiah is particularly concerned that they do not forget who they are or, more pertinently, whose they are. Even though they might be scattered across the world, they haven’t stopped being God’s people.

Jeremiah commands the exiles to work for the “peace and prosperity” of the places they find themselves

You might be the only Christian in your workplace, among your friends or family - but you are not alone. You are a dearly loved child of God and part of his global body of believers. So, stay faithful to him, wherever he has placed you. Remember why you are working for the shalom of a particular place – because the God of all things has invited you to do so.

This Lent, join me in praying that Christians up and down the country will unearth their extraordinary purpose in the everyday – for the good of our nation and the world, all for the glory of God.

LICC’s Lent devotional On Purpose is designed to help you be a faithful and undistracted agent of shalom in your workplace, friendship group, family or neighbourhood