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.
In a prior devotion I introduced the 7-11 Principle: the idea that the blessing promised in Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you”) cannot be separated from the prior command in verse 7 (“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city”). The exiles in Babylon were likely hearing two divergent invitations for how to live in the city where they were held captive. Should they succumb to the pagan culture and become like the Babylonians or separate themselves from Babylonian ways and trust Yahweh to deliver them like some false prophets were saying? The prophet Jeremiah offers a striking third way in chapter 29: Be faithful to Yahweh by seeking the welfare and prosperity of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7).
So this is where the 7-11 Principle comes in: “You don’t get 11 without first doing 7.”
You don’t get God’s plan to prosper you outside seeking the prosperity of your city, your neighborhood, and community. God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a verse intended for personal improvement or self-actualization. God’s promise is to a faith community committed to seeking the flourishing of their city as their primary mission. What does this peace-seeking look like?
When we see the fear in our communities related to policing, racial profiling, fears of terrorism and active shooters, the 7-11 Principle is a reminder that Christian leaders should be engaging the conversation instead of avoiding it. I appreciate Delonte Gholston for his efforts to start the Trust Talks in downtown Los Angeles. Sponsored by the Downtown Clergy Council, this is where a dialogue between the L.A. police department, politicians, residents, and marketplace leaders can happen as they share stories and experiences from their own perspective. Seeking the welfare of the city must include this kind of creative leadership.
When we see the anger against big corporations that are believed to use their power to extract exorbitant profits from medications or to pressure workers to meet unattainable sales goals, this is when leadership is needed most.
Yahweh instructs the exiles in verses 5 & 6 to build houses, settle down, invest in the economy, and grow families. God’s instructions clarify that leaders are to engage the most pressing issues that our communities face, such as policing, business ethics, mental health issues, and affordable housing. How does your leadership connect to these or other critical issues your city faces? How is your leadership an expression of your faith in Christ?
We are commanded in verse 7 to pray for Babylon and thus for leaders today; our prayers are focused on all involved in bringing God’s shalom to the city. I leave you with some questions to consider and a closing prayer.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Growing up, did you observe leaders who were more inclined to engage the critical issues of your community or avoid these controversial issues?
How can you imagine using your leadership to impact ethical organizational policies, neighborhood flourishing, or economic development in your sphere of influence?
Where do you see yourself disengaging as a leader? Is this disengagement sometimes the right decision to make? When do you more naturally engage leadership challenges?
How does seeing your leadership through the lens of the 7-11 Principle help you focus on the priorities before you? Does knowing that God wants us to “Seek the shalom of the city” encourage you or overwhelm you?
God we pray for those charged to keep our cities safe, for the safety of the citizens, and for constructive dialogue to take place.
God we pray for those in the financial sectors that profits would not overtake their commitment to provide a needed service for the people and their communities, that flourishing might occur for all and not just a few.
God we pray for all leaders that we might be an example of courageous leadership that rests securely in the promises of God.
May we eagerly and humbly seek to bless the cities in which we live, demonstrated through our words and actions. Amen.