When we think of our inner city neighborhoods and communities, it is easy to think first of the negative aspects. The inner city is often portrayed as dismal and beyond hope. While it is true that there are real problems in America's inner cities, there is also much to celebrate!
Here are just five of the ways we see heaven reflected in the inner city:
1. Ethnic and cultural diversity. The Bible says God will gather people from all over the world to dine together at the heavenly table. Dining tables in inner cities already demonstrate this reality. People from various ethnic backgrounds live among each other and often enjoy meals together — as in heaven, the inner city is both both ethnically and culturally diverse. Within a larger society that tends towards segregation and homogeneity, inner-city demographics remind us that the heavenly social experience is not going to be insular as it is on earth.
2. Glorious faith. Not everyone in the inner city is financially poor, however, of impoverished areas across America, poverty rates remain high in our inner cities. The Bible has a lot to say about people experiencing poverty, including this stunning truth: "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs," (Matthew 5:3, NLT). The poor are rich in faith. This is hard to comprehend as we live in an age of materialism, but those who are materially poor and yet walk by faith are living examples of much richer truths. Peace, joy and love come from what overflows in our souls, not our bank accounts.
3. The blessedness of peacemaking. Peacemaking is a much needed remedy to the divisiveness in our nation. Churches in the inner city bring a message of hope and justice to make peace, both between people and within individuals. Likewise, heaven is a place of worship where we will be aligned with God: there will be no strife, but there will be continual praise and unity.
4. Beauty. In the Bible, heaven is portrayed as a beautiful city, lacking nothing in aesthetics, constructed from jasper, gold, sapphires, emeralds, pearls and other jewels. Our inner cities are also beautiful — in addition to the beauty of ethnic and cultural diversity, there are many murals and mosaics. Public art, for all to enjoy, reflecting the most beautiful aspects of the communities in which they are created.
5. God is there. So often urban and suburban Americans view the inner city as somewhere people need God. But God is not absent; rather, God is actively engaged and present in the inner city. His work is being faithfully carried out by the many churches and individuals with a heart for these communities and neighborhoods. You can be a part of serving the inner city by participating in Holiday Care Boxes, which sends food to families in need. The boxes are delivered to the doorstep by college students, who listen to and pray with the families.
We celebrate what God is doing in America's inner cities! We acknowledge the great needs and lack of options facing many individuals and families. The inner city ministry of Cru builds partnerships with churches to alleviate poverty and create options. Through our partnerships with more than 2,000 inner-city churches in 24 cities across America, we have seen first-hand that hope shines bright in these neighborhoods, and God's work is evident.