When Christians think of cities in the Bible, most think of places like Sodom and Gomorrah, and their reaction is negative. They think of all the sin in cities, all the evil and all the enemies of the gospel that lurk there – like pornography, prostitution, drugs, carnality, materialism, glittering distractions and other sinful pleasures. Then they think of Abraham who remained on the plain close to the Lord, while Lot went into the city where his testimony was severely impaired. And they want to be like Abraham (Gen. 13:12-13). However, in the New Testament, we find that while the city is often identified as a place of sin, it is also recognized as the place for the spread of the gospel. In fact, God so loved the city that He addressed nine of the New Testament epistles to the Christians living in seven large cities – Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae and Thessalonica. In Revelation, God also used the seven cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea to give us an evaluation tool for all churches worldwide. And while we have scenes of our Lord teaching and preaching on hillsides and seasides, most of these locations were on the outskirts of cities such as Nazareth, Galilee, Judea and Decapolis, a region of ten cities. While one of the most popular metaphors of the gospel is agrarian – sowing, reaping, etc. – the other, fishing, is urban, as most large cities of that day were located on water and relied on the fish caught that day for food. While the biblical image most of us have of the places of gospel preaching are rural – because of such verses as “Go into the highways” (Mt. 22:9) – in fact, the bulk of gospel preaching and doctrinal teaching took place in what we would today consider large, crowded, noisy, dirty and evil cities, such as those listed above.
So what does all this suggest? When Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields … already white for harvest” (Jn. 4:35) He was referring to Samaria, the largest city in the region of Palestine. And when the Samaritan woman left her waterpot to go and tell her men friends about “the Christ, the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42), she went into the city of Samaria. Was Jesus successful in presenting the gospel to this Samaritan sinner? Was she successful in presenting it to her city friends? John wrote this: “Many of the men of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified” (Jn. 4:39). And those men urged Jesus to stick around, which He did, and “many more believed” (Jn. 4:41).
Shouldn’t this example encourage us to change our minds about taking the good news of the Savior to those living in the cities around us? If we’re still focused on the sinfulness of the city, let’s not forget that Paul, who spent most of his preaching time in big cities, wrote the following to the Christians in Rome while he was in Corinth: “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). Let’s not be afraid to take the good news of salvation into cities where millions of lost souls live; instead remember that when Jesus said, “God so loved the world” He was visiting the city of Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover (Jn. 2:23).
I know some tract distributors whose mission is to take the good news of salvation to Muslims. They go often to Dearborn, Michigan and Toronto, Canada because these two cities are homes to the largest populations of Muslims in North America. They say that every time they go, souls are touched by the Savior’s love. Their work prompted me to write this message to encourage you to change your attitude toward a city near you. It’s a great place for evangelism.
By Larry Ondrejack
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org