As residents of our city, we want to work to redress injustice, pursue reconciliation, and welcome the marginalised.
We celebrate the diversity of culture in our local contexts while recognising the need for gospel renewal.
We encourage one another to glorify God and serve others through the workplace, business, community projects, government and artistic endeavour.
What attitude should we have to our city, to our culture? This is a question the church has often grappled with. Sometimes Christians have said - 'stay apart from it all, stay separate, so that you can keep your identity'. Others in society would say - 'come and join in, don't be any different, give up your identity'. But its interesting that in the bible, when the prophet Jeremiah was talking to people in a similar sort of situation, he basically said - 'join in, get involved, and yet keep your identity as the people of God.'
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 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. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah ch29 v4-9
A guy called Tim Keller has written a lot about this and makes these points above. As shown in those writings of Jeremiah, these people of Israel, now living in Babylon, were trying to figure out how they should live. And the three scenarios above were discussed. But Jeremiah was clear that God wanted them to be positively involved in life there, while maintaining their identity.
We can see it in the life of the Old Testament character Daniel, aswell. As in Jeremiah's case, he was looking at life in a country where his values were not shared, and where, at times, there was great hostility to his beliefs and practices. And yet, he became determined that the right thing to do was serve and bless the new place. Daniel served but remained clearly as a follower of the Lord, known to be praying three times a day, and known, along with his friends, to serve the Lord first and foremost above all others (including the king). They almost lost their lives over these things, but in the end became recognised and respected all the more for their clear convictions.
Of course, not everyone was involved in the leadership of the country as Daniel and his friends were. But whatever the situation they found themselves in, the people were to be engaged and take a positive attitude to the city, while still being clear in their faith. This is what we want to do and it may be worked out in all kinds of ways, whether in the workplace, in our leisure time, through business, the arts, education, community collaborations, or simply neighbourly kindness. We are seeking to serve others and be a positive influence.
We want to do what we can for the place we live in. We love Derby. We love the people. We love its rich heritage and cultural diversity. We also see its brokenness and so want to bring healing, hope and light that Jesus Christ can bring, into dark and difficult situations. We want to bless this city in doing what we can to make life here fairer for all, more comfortable for all, battling injustice and poverty and standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Sometimes that will involve challenging situations and people. But we act out of a desire to love, serve and see people and places renewed.
We are seeking to bless, not tear down. Seeking to love, not hate. Seeking to encourage, not discourage. Seeking to bring peace not conflict. Seeking to bring forgiveness not shame. Seeking to bring hope not despair. Seeking to bring life, not death.