Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
Most of our lives are lived in ordinary moments – the daily commute, the pickup from school, midweek dinners. Run-of-the-mill days. And it can be hard to see purpose in the ordinary stuff or see how it’s shaping us as followers of Jesus.
And yet for the people of God in exile, even amidst confusion and disconcertion, the ordinary stuff is high up on God’s agenda.
That might have been strange for those convinced that the exile was just a blip. Ordinary life didn’t matter if they were just on a temporary hiatus from the homeland – God would soon deliver them.
But if, as Jeremiah said, they’d be there for a while, then in the meantime they’d better get on with doing everything they would have done back home. Build houses, settle down, plant gardens, start families. Get on with the ordinary stuff of life.
Jeremiah’s instructions carry more than just a hint of God’s words to humanity right at the beginning: ‘be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and rule over it.’ (Genesis 1:28) Theologians call this the ‘cultural mandate’. It’s a core aspect of what it means to be human, part of our purpose as image-bearers of God. To carry on the work of shaping creation and making culture that God started in the Garden of Eden.
Just as humanity, though exiled from the Garden, was still expected to fulfil that mandate, so the people of God were expected to do the same in their exile.
One day, the exile would end, and they would return – it wouldn’t be short, but it wouldn’t be forever, either. Without building healthy families, though, there would be no one left to go back. The greater purpose that God had given them remained undimmed in their present reality, daunting and overwhelming though it might have been.
In 1 Peter 1:1, followers of Jesus are called exiles, too. This isn’t our forever home either – not as it is now, anyway. One day, Christ will return and transform his world. In the meantime, even with (actually, because of) this hope, we’re to get on with the ordinary stuff of life – and being part of God’s restorative work. Nothing done for the glory of God and the love of others is wasted – not even the commute, the school run, or the Tuesday evening pasta bake. Because, when we do it with our eyes fixed on him, we’re keeping on purpose – God’s purpose.
Church Engagement Specialist, LICC
Think about the ordinary stuff in your life. How can you be intentional about seeking to love others and glorify God in it? Join the conversation below.