The city of God

The front page headline yesterday proclaimed: ‘Pride and Prejudice’. But where did the prejudice lie? Our city has rejected ‘the narrow door’ ( Luke 13:24) and the paper was proudly displaying its colours. We live in sad times in our city.

Christopher Watkins helpfully reminds us of the biblical vision as he returns to Augustine in his discussion of love:

“the city of God is characterised by loving service, whereas the earthly city cultivates a love of domination….Augustine does something quite unexpected and brilliant with his analysis of the libido dominandi, a cruel twist in the tale of domination. The problem with domination is that it knows no limit, no sufficiency, and it will end up enslaving those who pursue it in ‘the city which, when it seeks mastery, is itself mastered by the lust for mastery.’ Those who live by and for domination will find themselves dominated by their own insatiable love. Not so much the biter bit, as the dominator dominated.

“Augustine also contrasts the open city of God with the closed earthly city. The earthly city is closed in on itself because it glorifies itself, echoing back to itself in a never-ending feedback loop of pride. It is a closed circuit, a cramped cell lined from floor to ceiling with mirrors, and a brackish pool with no fresh water flowing in or out. The city of God, by contrast, is a river, constantly looking beyond itself to glorify its Lord. While the earthly city tries to satisfy itself with a slender trickle of self-pleasuring, the city of God casts off an endless ocean of divine love.

“This difference between two loves is relatively simple to articulate in its main features but endlessly rich in its application.”  (Watkins, Biblical Critical Theory, p 399).

Watkins notes that there is much here which provides critique of our ‘late modern society’…but as I look at present day Sydney I lament that our society has become blind to the biblical vision and turned a deaf ear to such critique. How extreme the contrast has become as we are engulfed by our pride and prejudice against the living God. And against his Son who lamented over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not!” (Luke 13:34).

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