“The whole of history since the ascension of Jesus into heaven is concerned with one work only:
the building and perfecting of this ‘City of God.'”
– Saint Augustine
In 401 AD, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. This left most of their society in shock. The city that once was thought to be everlasting and untouchable was revealed to be vulnerable. Fear was struck into the hearts of men. The symbol of civilization could now be shaken (and eventually destroyed). Where could people turn for hope now? Nowhere was safe. Civilization could collapse at any moment. Society had been on the decline for years prior (a moral decline, a political decline, and an economic one) and now it seemed that it was coming to a tragic head. Many groups argued about the cause of such a decline, but all agreed that society was falling. What could they possibly do?
It was with this backdrop that Saint Augustine wrote his classic, The City of God. Its purpose was to teach the validity of the Christian faith (which was receiving much backlash during this time) and to encourage believers to not be afraid when human constructs of society failed. Even if Rome fell, there is an everlasting city that is all the time growing, and that is The City of the everlasting God, the New Jerusalem. No matter how far down the gutter their world was going, there was always a constant to rest in: Jesus Christ and His city.
It shouldn’t be hard to see what I’m getting at here. The Western culture, that most of us live in, is in a steady decline. Having any morals is scoffed, mass shootings are on the rise, there’s an alarming amount of homeless people with nowhere to turn, and the corrupt, unbelievable reality show that is called politics are all signs of the times. I am not saying that the end is definitely at hand, but it is becoming increasingly clear that genuine Christians are not welcomed in the public square. Western culture’s decline seems to be coming to a head, and it’s hard to think that there is much hope for a turnaround, barring a miracle from God that is.
Now seems like the perfect time to panic. Yet the Biblical idea of The Sabbath is still very real. The Bible doesn’t say, “Take a day of rest, but ignore it if things are really bad.” No, if anything, now is a more important time to make sure we are taking that day to stop. By doing so, we are actively saying that there is something above the world we see and that there is a higher law than that of man. We are saying that despite what is happening in the world, we are deciding to identify with The Peace of God, rather than the Fear of Man.
The city of God that Augustine believed in and looked to is still here; it is a constant in the lives of His people. We are members of a city and it is not of this world. It is a city that can never fall; no man or power can touch it. There is no contest about who rules it either. The all-loving, all-powerful, all-just God of The Bible rules that city, and we are His subjects. The West is a society that is always shifting and has no constants. As believers, we must turn our eyes away from the city of this world from time to time and turn our eyes towards The Author and perfecter of our Faith and His city, the city of God.
The Sabbath is just one way that we say that we are not of this world. We are of the next world. We do not look to humankind for our safety; we look to The Lord. On this Sabbath day, I encourage you, no matter what the news is saying, no matter what the city of this world is saying, to remember that we are not members of this world, but we are citizens, by faith in Christ, of that everlasting city. We need never fear, for we know the end of the story:
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:13-14 ESV)
And so we have entered in. Happy Sabbath, fellow citizens.