A Network of Mutuality

By Rev. J. Loren Russell

“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 NKJV

On my broadcast last week, my guest, Rev. Dr. Frank Shope referenced Jeremiah 29. The scripture shares a letter that Jeremiah sent to the exiles, the priests, the prophets, and all the others who were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. This was not going to be a short-lived experience. Verse 10 says it will be 70 years, signifying a lifetime. They were in Babylonian captivity and under the control of a heathen nation, yet the letter challenged them to make the best of their predicament. It was a challenging message from the Lord.

I would be hard pressed to imagine a more difficult situation than to be in captivity and completely subject to someone else’s control.  The letter begins with the words, “Thus says the Lord,” to indicate that it was God Himself who was speaking and not Jeremiah. The Lord tells them that it was His choice to allow them to be taken into Babylonian captivity. We read in Jeremiah 25:1-14 how God’s anger was ignited against the Children of Israel because of their disobedience. He gives instructions on how they are to make the best of a horrible situation. The Lord tells them to build and dwell in houses, plant and eat from their gardens, take wives, bear children, have their children marry and have children. They must multiply where they are.

But wait, there’s more. He gives them a mandate that defies reason. The Lord instructs them to pursue peace, or whatever is best for the city where they were held captive. He tells them to pray for peace for the Babylonians. The peace that the letter speaks of is “shalom,” which means completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord. He was stretching them to new dimensions in their spiritual walk. The Israelites needed to understand that their blessings were inextricably tied to the blessings of their enemies.

Even today, God always has our best interest at heart. Like the Israelites, our disobedience can cause us to endure tough times and tremendous challenges in order to receive His blessings. We too, must make the best of our situations, to overcome our fears and our anxieties, our displeasures, our anger, and our differences. Our blessings are also inextricably tied to the blessings of our enemies.

Currently, COVID 19 and the heightened awareness of systemic racism reminds us that transformation is a painful process. We may not understand why we are going through such difficult trials or strenuous situations. We may feel as if everything and everybody is working against us. We may even think God has forsaken us. We might be tempted to throw in the towel and quit. However, change must come. It is coming, and is happening as we speak. The blessings we seek and those God has planned for us are inextricably tied to the blessings of our enemies, our critics, and those in leadership.

Some of the changes that have taken place may go against everything you believe to be in the best interest of the community. But this is the situation that we have been given in which to rebuild our community and our nation. Remember, God has not forgotten about us and plans to prosper and not harm us (v. 11). He knows where He is taking us, and wants us to be ready when we arrive. We must build, we must plant, we must marry, we must be fruitful, our children must multiply, and we must pray for the shalom of our enemies.

Understand that the Lord only wants what is best for us. That blessings and curses are inextricably tied together. We must use our mutual desire for peace as a catalyst to truly unite this nation.  

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial Strategy & Consulting; an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx; creator/host of “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Monday’s 8:00 – 10:00 PM (626-226-1448), author of Matters of Faith: The Book.

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