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Love Jesus, Love the City


In case you are not aware, our city has nicknames. How about Fayettenam? Hopeless Mills? And there are others – most of which would not be appropriate to name in this publication.

It is true that our city has aspects of a shameful past, and maybe there was a time when some of these names were more deserved. I was not here in the heyday of Hay Street, but I’ve heard it was quite the party. Like all cities, Fayetteville has its blemishes even today, but is it really deserving of these monikers? The nicknames reflect a feeling of despair and of being stuck.

I was getting a haircut one day, and the lady with the scissors told me that she thought Fayetteville was a black hole that sucks people into darkness and they can’t get out. My first thought was that she was a little too depressed to be this close to my throat with a sharp object, but coming in at a close second was a deep sense of compassion for her and our community. What experience wounded her so?

But what really ticks me off is when I hear Christians talk like this and so, this month, I’m writing to you. As Christians, we are called to love our city and its people. We are called to be a people transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can transform our city. It is not an accident that we are here now; it is not by chance that we have been born in this time and in this place. We are here to make a difference in our community through Jesus Christ.

As Christians, the heart of what we believe in the Gospel is that Jesus is in the transformation business. He loves us despite our faults, forgives us those things that we have done wrong, restores us to beauty and new life and promises us a fantastic future. We are called to view our city as Christ views us. Our churches are not supposed to be a refuge from the world – they are supposed to be places of community equipping us in the work of bringing God’s transformation here. We are never hopeless, never stuck, never alone and never defeated. If our city is in need then it is not for us to demean it but rather show it that the love and power of Jesus Christ are real.

For non-Christians, let me apologize for some churches and Christians who do not understand their own faith and spend their time dumping on our city rather than working for its healing. For Christians, I call you to a fresh look at this city, and I call you to action. Are some parts of our city unsafe? Let’s change it. Is every neighborhood beautiful? No? Then do something about it. Are we involved in social issues, the arts, music, government, sports programs, beautification projects, volunteering in schools, supporting our military? The city is only as good as its people. Jesus is in the business of transforming people and through his people he transforms cities, states and countries. So, if our city is lacking I ask you – what are you doing about it? Do you have the heart for our city that Jesus has for you?

Christians, our city needs us. Our faith is full of hope for those who feel things are out of control. It brings beauty to bleakness. It brings guidance to confusion. It brings depth to what is shallow. It brings life where there is death. It brings renewal where there is decay.

When I look at our city I do not see despair, I see promise. I see hope. I see a future. I see a palette to be painted by the beautiful Gospel of Jesus. So, let old nicknames die and work for the day when our city will be known for its faith, authenticity, love and hope. Love Jesus and love the city because Jesus loves this city.