Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
As the poet and writer TS Eliot looked at the living, breathing, moving crowds in London, he likened them to the walking dead. If you believe that all of those people (traipsing over bridges or crammed into tube carriages) are made in God’s image, sinners in need of a saviour, then this description is all-too accurate. Jesus saw crowds and was filled with a gut-wrenching compassion. Perhaps you feel the same way.
Co-Mission is a network that exists because of this gut-wrenching reality. And if we’re to reach London for Christ, then, like it or not, many of us are going to have to live here.
But living in a big city is hard. It’s impractical, expensive and intimidating. Some of us feel we would never manage it. Some of us live in the city now but expect that there will come a day, soon, when it will become unsustainable and we’ll have to leave.
As a city-dweller who finds life cramped, noisy and somewhat sweaty, I was encouraged recently by these words from Hebrews 11:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)
I find it fascinating that Abraham, after reaching the promised land, lived like a stranger in a foreign country. I’ve always focused on Abraham’s obedience as he looked forward to Canaan. But here we’re told that even after he’d arrived there he continued to look forward to his permanent home in the new creation.
This is challenging. Am I willing to live in tents, like a stranger in a foreign land? Do I really believe I’m only a temporary resident in this world? Do I daydream about the new heavens and new earth, or about having space for a second bathroom?
As believers, we know that Jesus is Lord over every area of life. We want to honour him in all our choices – big and small – including decisions about where we live. Perhaps that’s not something we have any choice about. But for those of us with options, deciding where to live is one of the biggest decisions we can make. It affects our church involvement, our relationship network and our finances.
While we’re calculating our budgets and searching on Rightmove, do we remember that we too are strangers in a foreign country, living in tents? Are our decisions shaped by Kingdom priorities or only by reputable schools, spacious gardens and good transport links? When we pray about these decisions are we really seeking God’s will for our lives, or only presenting our wishlist to an immortal, invisible estate agent?
The Lord has plans for each of us, and those plans are hugely varied. He does not command that everyone lives in the city! But he does command that we make his priorities our priorities, and so our reasons for deciding where to buy or rent ought to be distinctively different from the world’s reasons.
My husband and I live on the World’s End Estate in Chelsea, London. We moved here in 2008 ‘for a couple of years’ to help with a church - and we’re still here! In this series of articles, I’ll be sharing some of our experience of the challenges and blessings of life in the city, and reflecting on what the Lord has taught us. I hope that you’ll read them to be encouraged by the Lord’s generous provision, abundant grace and unfathomable wisdom, and be helped as you make your own decisions about where to live, now or in the future.
Brothers and sisters, whatever stage you’re at and wherever you live, let’s keep reminding one another to focus not on this foreign country but on Christ and the promise of our forever home with him.
Catherine Brooks and her husband Mike are members of St John's Church, Chelsea. Her main job is caring for their four children but she also works part time in a secondary school for boys. She loves music, books and cups of tea. She blogs about parenting and living for Jesus at muminzoneone.com.
 TS Eliot, The Wasteland