Living for the City of God

Living for the City of God

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11 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

Living for the City of God

By Terry Wong

In Romans, St Paul makes a strong distinction between our physical and spiritual worlds. “Walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)

Paul was not referring to two metaphysical locations. The realm of the flesh is a regime of laws, norms, conventions that shape our way of life. Life according to the flesh means accepting the world’s values: power, wealth and status as goals and death as an end, to be delayed as long as possible. By contrast, walking in the Spirit recognises the presence and Lordship of Christ. Death is not final and the highest good is fellowship with Him and our fellow men. Love becomes the key currency in the realm of the Spirit. 

St Augustine in his magisterial City of God described it in his own terms. There are two commonwealths: the city of man, an earthly city, and the heavenly city, the city of God. Both exist in this world but they have divergent values. The city of man rests in temporal powers; its hopes limited to the temporal horizon and its loves seek finite goods. The city of God hopes for eternal life; and its love is directed towards God and His creatures. We should not think of two cities existing in two different locations, as if the earthly city is Singapore or Jakarta. They do not operate on different planes of existence but are intermixed in this life and as St Augustine explains, will be untangled in God’s final judgment.     

So whether you are a businessman, pastor, teacher or politician, you can choose to live for the city of man or the city of God. One may be a pastor but live for the city of Man. Another can be a politician but live according to the Spirit and this is evident in his daily life, relationships, heart attitudes and so on. You can be in Singapore, London or Tokyo. Your office may be in the church or in a stock exchange. It is not your location or profession. It is about who and what is directing your life, what you are “walking according to.”

The globalised city culture will of course dictate and calls us to live for the city of man. At every turn, in almost every page of a secular newspaper (or every swipe of the screen) and on almost every corner you turn into, the Man calls out to you and the Man in you connects with him. 

A change begins to happen when God’s love breaks through and we realise that there is another Man whom we can live for and follow. That is the day we became a Christ-ian. The Kingdom of God (a realm) breaks into our lives. 

•     We begin to think beyond our earthly temporal existence.

•     We begin to be conscious of a Presence and that we are not alone when we are alone. 

•     We begin to set aside the best day of the week (Sunday!!) to gather in worship, rest from our money-making labour and acknowledge He is the source of everything. 

•     And in spots of time during the week, we take time to read His Word, spend time with His people and even talk about Him to those who live according to the city of man. 

In a globalised and hugely successful city like Singapore, life can get heady and our monies can buy us all sorts of goods that the whole world can offer (almost). From crystal meth to sex of all variants, pounding tables in boardrooms to pounding music in night clubs, life throbs on furiously. Many have to choose between two cities.

We live in this city. And we need to pray for this city. This is why we are calling the Cathedral and Christians everywhere to prayer in the run up to our nation’s 52nd birthday during the 40 days stretching from 1st July to 9th August. You are helped to do that by reading the 40-day Prayer booklet. From Mondays to Fridays, every day from 12.30 to 1.30 pm, we are also opening the Nave for worship and prayer.

ABOUT THE VICAR

Terry Wong Photo

Revd Canon Terry Wong is the Vicar of the Cathedral. He writes weekly for the weekend Service bulletins and the articles are posted on this site.