In Acts 2-4 Peter and John love their city in a Godly way by (at least) doing two things. Two things that most of the people around me in 21st century America would tell me are irreconcilable. Diametrically opposed.
1) They care for some among the city’s weak.
2) They proclaim to those in the city their sins.
For what it’s worth, I’m proof that both are vital. I needed love and affection and compassion in my broken and out moments, but I also needed someone who had seen the light to boldly tell me of my evils. I can tell you from experience that a narcissistic drunk doesn’t just need a friend. He also needs someone to tell him that drunkenness leads to death, wrath, and judgment. Peter had Godly affection for the weak of his city of Jerusalem, and he also told the people of his city that they had sinfully killed the Savior.
Here’s some of Peter from those chapters:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and the elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man is standing before you well.”
“You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of Life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And His name – by faith in His name – has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in presence of you all.”
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Hatred, indifference, greed, homosexuality, idolatry: It is unloving or cowardly to leave our city in the dark about the death they bring and the wrath they store up. We help sinners by telling them that God has saved us from our sins, and that He can save them from theirs. We do not help them by hoping that they’ll somehow figure out on their own that they are sinners and that Jesus offers them salvation.
But Peter and John also loved this crippled man outside the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. When he asked Peter for money Peter didn’t disdainfully tell him to get a job, or uncomfortably look the other way. Godly love is bold enough to call sin sin, to proclaim the Good News to its neighbors, and to care for the overlooked or incapable. It is true enough and big enough to do things the world doesn’t believe should go together. After all, the world doesn’t understand how a judge can be a Father.
It is an incomplete Christian who will not take a stand, when given a chance, on sin and the only One who can wipe it away. And it is an incomplete Christian who will not ever lift a finger or open his wallet for those who have little or no way to help themselves.
Nursing homes, foster homes, mental disability facilities, middle schools, and drug treatment centers in our cities are filled with people who could use a Christian hand or our Christian sweat. And office buildings, construction sites, restaurants, and city halls in our cities are filled with people who desperately need to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus of Nazareth.
Peter demonstrates two ways a Jesus-follower can love his city in a truly Godly way, here. We should courageously warn sinners of the wages of their sins and the free Gospel offered to them, and we should reach a merciful hand out to those image bearers who can’t help themselves. Our cities may not know that both are loving, but those who are added to our number will be singing gratefully with us into eternity. And that’s more than enough.