“I couldn’t wait to leave home.” The words I often hear from students who move away for college with no intentions of ever returning to their hometown. They spend their twenties in big cities like New York, Chicago or Atlanta. Then, in their mid to late thirties, some of them find themselves returning to their home town because, “It’s a great place to raise a family.”
What this typically means is that it is a safe, secure, even peaceful place. Roanoke is one of those kinds of places. For those whose lives have not been turned upside down by the person of Jesus, this makes perfect sense.
But what if you are a follower of Jesus? What if the power of the gospel has opened your eyes to your rebellion against God and your separation from Him apart from a sufficient mediator? What if you have become convinced that Jesus, as the perfect God-man is that mediator? What if you believe His death on the cross was for your rebellion called sin? What if you believe that by His resurrection from the grave He has conquered death and sin? What if you have responded, in faith and repentance to Jesus’ invitation to come, follow me? Does He lead us to “great places to raise family”?
At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is giving His disciples some final instructions that are frankly, troubling to me. In Luke 24:36-53, Jesus appears to His disciples, eats with them and gives them the mission to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins…to all nations.” Then in verse 49 Jesus says, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Did you catch it? Sure, a lot is here about the Holy Spirit. But did you catch the ‘but’? “But stay in the city…” The same city in which Jesus has just been tried in a kangaroo court and found guilty. The same city in which Jesus was hung on a cross to die for sins he never committed. The same city in which those in authority placed armed soldiers at the entrance to the tomb of a dead man in order to silence any ‘myths’ about resurrection. The same city in which the followers of Jesus are hiding together fearing for their life. But stay in the THAT city.
Now some will say, “But wait, that was different. Jerusalem had a particular role to play in redemptive history.” I agree, Jerusalem does have a unique place in redemptive history, but is it really that different? You mean to tell me the pull to return to the coast of the Sea of Galilee wasn’t tempting for the disciples? The northern coast of the Sea of Galilee was a great place to raise a family. What about Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean? It was the proverbial Margaritaville of the Ancient near east. “But stay in Jerusalem.” What could possibly make them stay?
I think the gospel writer Luke tips his hand for us in the book of Acts. There we find the disciples saying that they are servants of king Jesus. They live where they live as servants of the king. What about you? What do your choices reveal about who your king is? Do you live in this valley as a servant of the king or a slave to safety and security?
If you are not a follower of Jesus, my question for you is who or what are you serving? All of us are serving someone or something. Just follow the trail of your money. You may be serving your reputation, your career, your pleasure even your kids. You have a king. If you having a living and active relationship with Jesus, you need to know that you live here as a servant of the king. You didn’t pick this place it picked you. You are not here to be safe. I am not here to be safe. We are here to see His kingdom advance throughout this valley. To see His justice, His righteousness, His peace, His reconciliation, His restoration heal our valley. We are here to see men, women and children experience the new and abundant life found in Christ. A life that brings healing to broken homes and reconciliation among races. A life where the needs of the oppressed and outcast are met and injustice is no more. A life in which individuals, as well as institutions, are no longer slaves to self-centeredness and greed. That’s why you and I are here. We are here because the King called us to this city. And yet, I feel the pull. I hear the siren call of safety. I feel the slow drift towards security. I find my lips forming the words, “It’s a great place to raise a family.”
Even the safest most secure place on the planet is frightening when I go there as a servant of the King, but that’s because I think I go there alone. I love the way the gospel of Luke ends. After Jesus gave those words in verse 49 we are told he took them out and blessed them. So, in verse 49 Jesus promises the power of the Holy Spirit to go with us. Then He gives us a blessing before we serve Him. His blessing always precedes the obedience of His people. We serve Him because He has blessed us, not in order to earn his blessing. What that means is that we are not here in our own power. We are not here on our own merit. We are not alone.
So, why are you in this valley? What, or who, has sent you here? It is a great place to raise a family…it’s an even greater place to serve the King with your family.
Ed Dunnington is the Senior Pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Roanoke. Visit their website at www.ctkroanoke.org.