“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11
“Christians love this verse,” he writes. “It has all the ideas and values we crave: prosperity, safety, security, hope, longevity. It’s the verse we most associate with the book of Jeremiah.”
Yet, as Koons is quick to remind us, the “bigger picture” of Jeremiah 29 is far less rosy. Jeremiah is writing to a displaced people living in a strange land, struggling to understand how they might live peacefully and fruitfully in the here and now while keeping their sights and spirits focused on the not yet.
“Somehow, we’ve forgotten that Jeremiah 29:11 is written in the midst of unspeakable calamity,” Koons writes, and perhaps it’s because “we fail to recognize that all of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, not just Jeremiah 29:11, still applies to us today.”
Sure, our passports and birth certificates tell us one thing, but Philippians 3:20 tells us another: our citizenship is in Heaven. And don’t get me wrong, every square inch of this world belongs to God and His Spirit dwells in us, but we are not yet fully home. Exile is the time in between. We see through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:2)…We live and die in exile, in the midst of calamity. We live and die in Babylon. Welcome “not home”…
…And I wonder, do we feel that tension today? Do we feel the longing to be united with Christ, to know and fully be known? Do we feel the homesickness, the dis-ease, of being barred from our home? Or, could it be that we’ve come to embrace this world and a culture that preaches happiness, safety, and security at all costs—a culture that flees from all forms suffering and discomfort?
Our preoccupation with Jeremiah 29:11 leads me to believe that this is true. We desperately want to make our home, but before our home is ready.
Christians go about this in plenty of clumsy and counterproductive ways, which Pastor Greg Thompson of Trinity Presbyterian Church effectively summarizes under the following three categories (as reference and paraphrased by Koons):
- Fortification is all about protection. These are the Christians who hunker down in their own Christian bunkers with their own Christian friends and their own Christian thoughts and Christianly wait until Christian Jesus comes back.
- Domination is all about getting out into culture and condemning it. These Christians are on mission to fight the world and take it back in the name of Jesus.
- Accommodation is all about waving the white flag. These Christians don’t want to hide. They don’t want to fight. They just want to blend in, drink really good beer, and get about the business of the day. Unfortunately, in blending in, these Christians lose the reality that they are “set apart.”
So, if all three of these methods fall short, what are Christians to do?
As Stephen Grabill ponders in Episode 1 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles (a seven-part film series starring Koons himself): “Maybe what God asked of the Israelites in captivity he’s asking of us today.”
Or, as Koons goes on to explain: “We are being called by God to spend the remainder of our days serving our captors, working with them (not fighting them or conforming to them or fleeing from them—but serving them) and compromising nothing. It’s rooted in the belief that all of our vocations (family, work, public service, education, art, and more) matter.”
For more on what this might look like in application and how we as Christians ought to approach it, watch the entire series, which releases later this month.
For the Life of the World is an entertaining film series that explores the deeper meaning of Salvation. Have you ever wondered, “What is my Salvation actually FOR?” Is it only about personal atonement, about getting to heaven, or something that comes later? Is it just to have a “friend in Jesus?”
Join Evan Koons and his friends – Stephen Grabill, Amy Sherman, Anthony Bradley, Makoto Fujimura, John M. Perkins, Tim Royer and Dwight Gibson – as they discover a “new perspective,” the BIGGER picture of what it means to be “in the world, not of it.” This seven-part film series will help you, your friends, church or organization investigate God’s Economy of All Things – OIKONOMIA (a Greek word that has a lot to say about God’s plan for his creation, the world, and us.)
This Combo Pack includes a letter from Evan and two discs for your player of choice: DVD and Blu-ray. Enjoy seven episodes around 20 minutes each, along with episode teaser videos, a series trailer, and bonus content.
Explore how God’s purposes are woven into every area of our lives: family, work, art, charity, education, government, recreation and all creation! The Bible calls us Strangers and Pilgrims, living in "the now and not yet" of God’s Kingdom Come on earth. We are also called to be salt and light, to have a transforming presence among our neighbors. Rediscover the role of the church and how our lives lived on earth matter in God’s plan for the world.
Designed for deep exploration, the series invites viewers to watch the series again for new insights. Also, check out the companion Field Guide to jump-start group and individual investigation and enhance the film experience! FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD Field Guides are available in print or via streaming access at StudySpace.org.