Leave Jerusalem

Letters to the exiled Church in India — Part 1

Mark Raja
4 min readMar 29, 2024
Manipur Violence 2023, © The Northeast Affairs

Between 607–586 BC, God let the Jews be taken captive to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar for their idolatry. For 23 years before the captivity, the prophet Jeremiah persuaded the people to repent from their evil ways and turn to God, but they rejected his prophecies. On the contrary, their false prophets kept assuring them by saying, “No disaster shall come upon you.” (Jeremiah 23:17)

Even after the first siege in 607 BC, King Jehoiakim and later King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, which led to the complete destruction of the temple and the bloody city of Jerusalem.

As God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden due to their rebellion, He uprooted both the northern and southern kingdoms for their idolatry from the land he gave to their fathers. He destroyed their temple and drove them to live in exile among their pagan enemies and their idols.

God let their enemies plunder the treasures of Judah and all their prized belongings. Yet by his great mercy, he said, “I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land.” (Jeremiah 24:6)

But, to those who remained in Jerusalem, it was even miserable. God said, “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them…” (Jeremiah 24:9–10)

After 70 years, God brought them back. As people settled, they rebuilt the temple and the city walls. Nevertheless, they continuously sinned against God. They killed their prophets and even killed their long-awaited messiah. Therefore, God judged Jerusalem and it was destroyed by fire in 70 AD. (Matthew 23: 29–36) Jesus forewarned his disciples to flee Jerusalem towards the mountains when they saw the signs of its fall. (Luke 21: 20–21)

The early Church never considered Jerusalem and the temple to be their confidence. Why? Because, as followers of Jesus, they saw themselves as sojourners pursuing the heavenly city that is to be revealed in Christ at the end of times.

What does that mean? They believed that in Jesus, they were the new temple, citizens of New Jerusalem living in this world as “strangers and refugees” seeking God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. However, living in this world and being not of this world attracts considerable opposition and persecution.

The early Church believed that in Jesus, they were the new temple, citizens of New Jerusalem living in this world as “strangers and refugees” seeking God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The early Church experienced exile since they followed Christ. The Jews under Nebuchadnezzar experienced exile for their disobedience to Yahweh. Whatever may be the reason, the condition of exile is real, and the command to leave Jerusalem is necessary.

Today, the Church in India is experiencing similar circumstances for both reasons. What are we supposed to do? Which Jerusalem are we holding on to for our identity and security?

Many Christians today are praying that certain political parties do not form the government again. Is it for our old Jerusalem to remain intact? Haven’t we made idols of our denominations, churches, traditions, theologies, institutions, buildings, properties, etc., turning them into our identity, security and confidence? Haven’t we turned Christian service into businesses or personal empires?

Now we ask, why is God allowing our churches and organisations forcefully closed? Why is he not concerned about his gospel work? Just like the Jews who asked, why didn’t God care for his temple, his holy city and the promised land that he gave to their fathers?

Yes, it is heartbreaking to see our fellow brothers and sisters who are genuinely serving God go through these difficult times, they are unjustly put in prison, and scores of congregations are not allowed to gather even at home. Many schools and hospitals God enabled the Church to build were torn down. Many of these institutions today truly serve the poor of the country.

In this reality, what does it mean to leave Jerusalem?

It is to leave our dependence and confidence in what we have built. We have turned our denominations, institutions, cult leaders, brands, properties, wealth, and power to meet our selfish desires.

Are we willing to let go of these idols? Have we forgotten that Christ has asked us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and willingly share in his suffering? Christ who was rejected, humiliated, and suffered, triumphed over darkness and is exalted over heaven and earth. In the same way, we will triumph in Christ, when we put our confidence in Christ alone.

We need to be good stewards of the institutions God called us to build, protect and oversee but dare we forget that the way of Christ is through surrender, humiliation and suffering.

Leaving Jerusalem also means reassessing our leadership, organizational structures, cultural engagement, theology and most importantly our spiritual character to realign with Christ.

Let us not excuse ourselves by saying we were not corrupt. We Christians are notorious for blaming others, even within the body of Christ. Instead, let us repent of our deep-seated pride and lack of love towards our neighbours. Let us seek forgiveness for our personal hidden sins and the sins of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

United as Christ’s New Jerusalem, the city on the hill, let us become the light our nation needs to see.

In the following letter, I want to focus on ‘Settling in Babylon as citizens of New Jerusalem.



Mark Raja

I mostly write to clarify my understanding. You will find my articles on themes like beauty, faith, hope, culture, and common good.