This past week my wife and I have been exploring New England. After dropping off our teens at camp in New Hampshire, we hit the road to see a few well-known and lesser-known places.
Today we walked part of the Freedom Trail in Boston. We had a great time, but we also had some time to reflect on the way back to our hotel. I couldn’t help notice all the busy people rushing by, many of them looking unhappy or lonely. We asked ourselves, “Why would you want to live in a big city?” When we were younger, and before we had kids, the big city had a certain kind of allure. Many people pursue life in the big city for the excitement, the advancement, for the status, and for the money. It’s hip, quick and (sort of) comfortable. For those reasons, life in the big city can be a very self-centered endeavor. Don’t hate on me all you Bostonians. I understand the love for your hometown. I’m from Denver, another big city, and while I love Denver, it simply is the true that big cities attract and concentrate sin.
I couldn’t help but contrast Boston with our visit to Salem just the day before. Salem is known for its infamous Witch Trials, but I was more interested in a different story. We parked in a lot in downtown Salem and walked just a block away to Tabernacle Congregational Church. Though the church turned liberal long ago, it conserves an important piece of history.
It was from this church that Adoniram Judson, long-time missionary to Burma, first embarked with four other missionaries to India. Tabernacle Church held an ordination service for these men just before they left. You can still visit their historical room to view certain artifacts, like the original bench they sat on and a cello that was played during the ordination service.
Driving back from Boston, and reflecting on my visit to Salem, I considered two answers to the question “Why would you want to live in a big city?” I’m sure many people asked Judson, “Why would you want to live in Burma?” His response, no doubt, was that God had many people there who needed to hear and believe the gospel. He was one of the first American missionaries to go. He knew his role as God’s ambassador.
So, if you want to live in a big city, or any specific place for that matter, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why. Is it for personal advancement? Comfort? Financial security? Career success? Or, is it for the sake of Christ’s name? The salvation of souls? The good of the church? Obedience to God’s call? One way reflects the priorities of the world, the other way reflects the priorities of Christ.
Those are tough questions that can only be answered when you walk with God intimately. It may be OK for one person to move into a big city, but not for another, all because of the desires of the heart. One of the sad realities in American culture today is that Christian parents often counsel their children to pursue a path of worldly success rather than godly self-sacrifice. How many ordination benches will we leave behind in the next one hundred years? If our heart is in the right place, I hope we will leave many, many more.