The people of God had been hauled off into Babylonian captivity. They were prisoners, living in the land of a people they considered heathens, which they were told would be the case for roughly 70 years. And God’s message to them? “Settle in and be a blessing to the people around you.”

Really?! You expect us to get comfortable and be nice about this?

In Jeremiah 29, we often quote the well-known verse 11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” What we sometimes miss is the power that comes in that statement because of its context.

This “hopeful future” would be one that most of the listeners would not see. It was great that their kids and grandkids would see their restoration, but most of those hearing the message would die in captivity.

What we miss apart from context is that calling in verse 7: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

I believe that God was, through prophet Jeremiah, calling the people of God, while waiting for God’s promise to come to fruition, to make a difference in the here and now.

I believe that He was calling them not to be a people who sit and wait for something better amidst the trouble that their own actions had gotten them into, but to use this divine appointment as an opportunity to make a difference where God had planted them.

He was calling them to bloom where they were planted.

In a sense, we are all like God’s people in exile. Christ-followers are called in Scripture: sojourners, foreigners, and aliens. Why? Because when we make the decision to accept God’s gift in Christ and become His child, we may still live here, but this is not our home.

Our home is the place we arrive after our last breath.

But, while we are here, we are called to make a difference in this place. I believe God’s call to His people through Jeremiah was like ours: to make a difference in the “here and now” so that we have opportunities to make a difference in the “there and then.”

As we desire to be good citizens where God has planted us, He provides opportunities for us to use as something else we are called in His Word: salt and light, and a city situated on a hill. Let our good actions not come from desires to appear any certain way, but from the overflow of Christ’s genuine love for the people around us.

Brett Myers is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island.