Missiology: Urban Mission Part 9 – Retelling the Story: Looking to the Cross

Over the last few days I have been posting some thoughts on an issue facing the future of the church, namely the explosion of urban populations. I started by taking a look at some of the issues brought about by the urban explosion. Today, in our final entry, we will wrap up the story that we started with in the beginning. Also we will see how the gospel addresses the issues brought up in the paper.

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VI-Retelling the Story: Looking to the Cross

Her church was known for it’s gigantic cross that overlooked the valley. In fact on a clear night when the cross was light up it was visible from miles away. One night after going to church she sat in the parking lot staring up at the cross. She pondered and prayed about the conversations she was having about the city. Had she been wrong? Was the city really a hellhole, and it needed rescuing? Or was it the place where God worked and dwelled? She looked up again at the cross, which stood at the edge of this city, and she remembered Hebrews 13:12-14 which says: “Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city to come.” As she sat there remembering what Christ had done for her on the cross, she was flooded with emotions. She realized that Christ’s work on the cross was the ultimate act of justice and solidarity. Christ bore our shame and punishment even when he didn’t deserve it. The only reasonable response to his sacrifice for her was to enact justice and live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. She realized that the gospel leads her to doing justice, and doing justice opens the city up to receive the gospel. In other words her “justification by faith leads to doing justice, and doing justice can make many seek to be justified by faith.”[1]

She also remembered Revelation 22:1-2, where the water of life flowed through the city of God to the tree of life which produced leaves for the healing of the nations. She wondered about this tree and her mind went back to the tree on which Christ was crucified. On the cross he was slaughtered and by his blood he ransomed saints from every tribe and language and people and nation for God (Revelation 5:9). People from all different backgrounds were together worshiping Christ, there was unity in the midst of diversity!

The more she thought about the cross, the more she realized God’s heart for the city. It seems as though the future of the church is in fact in the city. Yes, the city has its challenges. The church in the city must deal with poverty and it must deal with cultural heterogeneity and the issues that come alongside of it, but the cross brings healing where there is injustice and it creates unity. She looked to the cross once again, and but this time she saw that God really loves the city. God loved the city so much that he gave his Son for it. Staring at that cross on that hill outside of the city she realized that we must participate “in what God is doing. We do not bring God’s reign to the city. God is already there. He invites us to join him in his activity. In humility we must realize that we will never have the answers. We cannot meet all the needs. We are not the answer.”[2] Christ is the answer for the city.


[1] Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, 140.

[2] Jude Tiersma, “What Does it Mean to be Incarnational When We are not the Messiah?,” in God So Loves the City, eds. Charles Van Engen and Jude Tiersma, (Monrovia: MARC, 1994), 15.

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