Epiphany 4, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Jeremiah 29:1-14

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NRSV)

‘Welfare’ is a loaded term these days, and ‘seeking welfare’ has very negative connotations. But God is not telling his people to try to benefit from social programs in the place where he has exiled them; ‘welfare’ in this context means health, happiness, and general well-being. Even though the Israelites have been exiled to a city where they don’t want to be, God is telling them to live there as though it were their own city, contributing to its well-being by building houses, planting gardens, and having families. By improving the lot (welfare) of the place where they live—even if it’s a place they never would have chosen for themselves—they can improve their own situation as well, and everyone wins.

Many Christians today try to separate themselves from society, creating parallel or alternative Christian societies in competition with the larger society. While it’s true that we’re called to be in the world but not of the world, God did not intend for us to remove ourselves from the prevailing culture. Rather, by abiding in and among people who don’t know or recognize God, we can proclaim his love through our own faithful living. Just as the holy Son of God abides with us sinners.

Wherever you live, no matter how sinful or fallen it may seem to you, it is not beyond hope. Seek its welfare; engage fully with your environment while living faithfully in the Lord. Doing so will improve your situation as well as everyone else’s, and God’s steadfast love will be demonstrated.

Let us pray. Abiding Savior, while we were yet sinners, Christ came to us, lived among us, and died for us. Encourage us to show the same love to the people around us, that they may recognize your goodness and turn to you. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.