Does God Care About the City?

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it.

~ John 19:41, RSV

If nothing else, God cares about the cities because they have people in them. That’s what makes them cities.

In 1994 Bruce Winter wrote a book he titled Seek the Welfare of the City, a title taken from Jeremiah 29: “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.”[1] Winter is writing about first century Christians, but the welfare of the city ought to be a real concern to Christians in this twenty-first century, too. Even in cities where it seems as if there is a church on every corner, we have problems: crime, pollution, traffic, unemployment, homelessness; the list goes on and on, and you probably have your own ideas about “what’s wrong with the city.”

Los Angeles is the city and context where I do ministry.  I can imagine Jesus here, stopping to pray with and heal a homeless man on Skid Row, or chatting with a prostitute on Santa Monica Boulevard, or sitting down to dinner with a high-powered Hollywood executive. I can imagine Jesus kneeling to pray in our little sanctuary in South Central or in the ostentatious but still holy Cathedral of the Angels.

God cares about the city – not just Los Angeles, but every city – and because God cares, I care.  I don’t care only because God cares, but also because this is where my own life unfolds, and because people are fun and fascinating, and because in every person I meet I see reflected some little piece of Jesus, or my own mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter or grandchild. Sometimes I see a reflection of myself.  How could I not care?

I love the sometimes dirty and gritty but always interesting and diverse City of Angels with its Tower-of-Babel- and-Pentecost-all-rolled-together mix of languages and cultures and skin tones and traditions. (I also love my hometown city, Long Beach, twenty miles away from my church, a kind of mini-LA with its own history and culture.) I want to understand what works and what doesn’t work, the complex interaction of people and politics and systems, and I want to understand how we can make it all come together in a way that benefits the entire community – all the people who live and work and pass through this crazy pueblo known as Los Angeles.


[1] Jeremiah 29:7, RSV.

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