“But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand form their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” - Jonah 4:11
The first city in Biblical history was founded by a murderer, Cain (Gen. 4:17), and its history since then has been consistent with the spirit of its founder. It’s possible that Cain established the city to escape a life of homeless wandering under the wrath and curse of God, so that he would have some way to provide for his needs since the earth would not yield its fruit to him. It is for this same reason—economic survival—that most people in the world flock to cities today. And yet, despite the long and dark history of human cities, from Babel through Sodom and Gomorrah to bloody Rome, God has never forsaken compassion for the city. His statement to Jonah in the verse cited above is ample demonstration of this. Nineveh was like other cities, wicked and vengeful, full of murder, as described vividly in Nahum 3:1-4. It was called a “city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims (Nah. 3:1)!” In Jonah’s day, it was no better, yet God clearly states His compassion on its inhabitants and sovereignly moved them to repentance through Jonah’s ministry.
It is necessary for God’s people now to be moved with the same compassion over the city. Population studies show an astonishing trend toward the urbanization of the world. More and more people are moving to live in the city, and crowded conditions multiply human misery and evils. Only those who are constrained by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14) will be willing to reach those in such circumstances. God has placed many in the Church in an urban setting as well, and it is for us to be moved with His compassion on the lost right in our neighborhoods. Many have come here from other countries seeking economic survival, and they find even greater dangers through crime and drugs. There remains only one solution for the city and that is the power of the gospel and of God’s Spirit-filled people. As the Church, how have we sought ways to reach the cities around us? What about expanding a tutoring program, or going door-to-door with the gospel? Could we be discipling young people who make a commitment to Christ in backyard Bible clubs? None of this will happen without first being captured by God’s love for His people who are still lost in the city.
"Only those who are constrained by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14) will be willing to reach those in such circumstances."
The final history of the city is as glorious as the previous history has been dark: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). The “preparation” of the bride is going on now, through the advance of the gospel. It is for the Church to help with the dressing of the bride through faithful ministry in Christ’s name.