I am #NYC
Acts 17:24 – The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man
For the past few months, I have been spending 2-3 days a week in New York City. Since NYC is incredibly fickle and expensive with their hotel rates, I have officially stayed in 4 of the 5 boroughs. While I am not a fan of NYC as a whole (I am distinctly a non-city person), I need to give respect to NYC.
Each of the five boroughs is so very distinctly different. For those of you that don’t know them, they are: Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. In this 2014 calendar year, I have stayed in all but Staten Island, although years ago I spent a few months there.
The differences in the boroughs are extreme in some cases. Let’s look at them a little (don’t worry, I will hopefully have some sort of theological message by the end of this, just be patient):
• This is where the majority of the tourists spend their time in NYC.
• It has the richest neighborhood in all of NYC.
• It has many small districts inside of it such as the meat packing district, the jewelry district, the financial district, the fashion district, etc….
• It boasts both the largest public library and the largest transportation hubs in all of the five boroughs.
• About 50% of the population of Queens was born outside the USA.
• There are over 200 languages spoken in Queens.
• It is the home of the NY Mets and was the home of both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.
• It has both of the airports in NYC: Laguardia and JFK.
• Coney Island is in Brooklyn.
• When Brooklyn was a separate city, it was larger than Manhattan and was the 3rd largest city in the entire USA.
• Brooklyn has its own distinct accent.
• Other than Manhattan, it is the only other borough to have a distinct downtown area.
• The hot dog, escalators, and the baseball cap were all invented in Brooklyn.
• It is the only borough on the US mainland.
• Demographically, it is the poorest borough.
• It is the home of the NY Yankees and Van Cortland Park, one of the largest parks in the USA.
• It has the most bridges of the five boroughs.
• It is the least populated borough.
• It is the home of the Fresh Kills landfill.
• It has a ferry that will take you to lower Manhattan.
With all of those distinct flavors, one could spend a lifetime in NYC and still find something new and fresh every day to celebrate. I didn’t even touch on the food. There are some very amazing places there to eat
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
But now let’s look at this theologically. Each of us is like a mini-NYC. We are made up of so many distinct characteristics that, depending on our situations, we show or hide. God is not situational in His approach with us. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. But humans are quite situational. That is why we need God to bring us back to reality sometimes.
Inside of each of us is a little bit of every NYC borough. I don’t mean that we originally started in the Garden of Eden which is somewhere south of NYC in Jersey (just kidding, God would never put the Garden of Eden in Jersey). But what I mean is if we look at each of the boroughs above, we can see how our lives can be like them, one big city but many different views.
1 Corinthians 12:12 – There is one body. But it has many parts. Even though it has many parts, they make up one body. It is the same with Christ.
Each of us has a little bit of Staten Island in us. It is the part where all the trash goes. Not a lot of people see this area of us because they are our buried pasts. While it isn’t widely populated by people, there is access to it for those who want to pay the price. Just like you have to purchase a ticket to take the ferry from Manhattan to SI, our loved ones have to pay the price to see our complete self.
1 Corinthians 4:13 – We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash–right up to the present moment.
On the flip side of that, each of us has a Manhattan in us. That is the part that everyone sees. That is the person who is wearing True Religion jeans, aviator glasses, and drives the beemer. That is the person who stays strong so as not to let the world see the inner turmoil happening in their soul. This is also the portion of us that changes as needs arise. Just like Manhattan has different district inside of it, we change based on what is happening around us. When we are at work, people see the work person in us. Then, when the workday ends, we may show our family side or our party side. This is the most shallow of the 5 boroughs of NYC and it is the most shallow person inside of us. Not a lot of depth, just a lot of scurrying around to accomplish tasks.
1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Everyone, as well, has a little bit of Queens inside of them. While most people reading this were most likely born and raised in the USA, every single one of us can trace our families all the way back to Eden, which would be somewhere other than the USA. Most Bible commentaries state that the Garden of Eden was somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, based on the description given in Genesis 2:8-14. So you know what this means? We are all middle-eastern in some way. After Adam and Eve, the tribes were born out of Abraham and then from there Isaac went one direction and birthed the Jewish tribes while Ishmael went another direction and birthed the Arab tribes. From there, as is said, the rest is history. We are all descendants of another people. Spiritually speaking, however, we are made to speak our spiritual language. That is our conversations with the Almighty Creator God and His one and only son Jesus Christ. Our hearts speak this language. As we mature in faith, we begin to understand what our hearts truly need and what they constantly ask for. They are constantly seeking relationship, not necessarily with other humans, although that is God-ordained. No, the heart is constantly seeking a relationship with God the Father.
Next, all of us have a part of the Bronx in us. Being the poorest of all of the boroughs, it is important to understand that we are born spiritually poor. This spiritual poverty is important to understand. If we do not realize that we live in a spiritually impoverished environment, then we run the risk of letting that rule our lives. How many young men in the hood have chased money to get out of the “trap.” Rap stars, sports figures, and business moguls coming from physical poverty only to find that their souls have stayed in spiritual poverty while they improved their financial situation. But God (one of my favorite phrases in the Bible!), like the Bronx has provided a lot of bridges for us to walk to the inheritance He wishes to bestow upon us. All we have to do is accept that we are in spiritual poverty and that He wants us to cross the bridge of life and accept his free gift of salvation.
Proverbs 13:8 – Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
Finally, all of us have a little bit of Brooklyn in us. This is the individualistic area. This is where we become who we are as a person. No one can be just like us. We have our own accent. We have created many things in our lives. Like Brooklyn, we have our own Coney Island. It is where we escape to when we want to have fun. If we aren’t careful, this very large part of us can easily be the part that we portray all of the time. When this happens, then our pride gets in the way. We need to make sure that we enjoy this part of our life. It is God-given after all, but that we don’t make it the only portion of our life.
Altogether, each of the boroughs of NYC creates a beautiful whole. Each one has its own charm and flavor but each realizing its importance to the other boroughs. And inside each of us, these five boroughs exist to complement the aggregate whole, which can never be made complete without the saving grace of our loving Savior Jesus Christ.
It is important to understand each of the five boroughs of your being in light of Christ, the head over all. Once we understand that, we begin to see that we are really only a small part of a larger picture that God is constantly painting to make this NYC-like metropolis into a city on the hill, shining the light of Christ to a dark and fearful world.