Since first entering seminary and learning about the great philosopher St. Augustine, The City of God had been on my reading list. Whether it was due to the sheer number of pages or the complexity of his writing, twenty years passed before I first tackled this book earlier this summer. Little did I know at the time that I would be rereading it in the fall, in conjunction with, On Augustine: The Two Cities by Alan Ryan! But truth be told, there is so much to be gleaned that two readings hardly garner all the wisdom this book holds. However, there were a few observations that particularly caught my attention.
First, I could not help but notice Augustine’s intentionality to engage the world and those around him after his conversion. This was most notable in both his practical decision to not retreat to the country as a philosopher and the purpose of his writing the City of God as a treatise to defend the truths of Christianity in an ungodly world. Additionally, whether or not it was due to the conversion of Constantine and the widely embraced endorsement of Christianity, Augustine encouraged engagement in all sectors of life, including the political and military realm. These areas of life had once been considered taboo by dominant Christian ethics.
From this framework, I note my second observation; Augustine believed “the dominion of good men is profitable, not so much for themselves as for human affairs.” Directly opposed to a retreat and isolation mindset, Augustine advocated for the good of all people through the intentional engagement of Christ-followers in the world. Affirming this truth, Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked person rules, people groan” (NASB).
Finally, I very much appreciate Augustine’s portrayal of a two kingdom mindset. One kingdom is driven by a love for the things of this world, whereas the other kingdom, the kingdom of God, is motivated by a deep affection for God. From this, I understand that Augustine’s call is for Christians to live with a kingdom of God mindset while they faithfully live their lives in this world. Yet, Augustine is not so naïve as to believe that the will and intentions of humans are always good, for original sin (Genesis 3) has affected all people.
In thinking about both the ministry I lead and my NPO, these principles carry great practical significance. First and foremost, at the core of Christian community development work is an ethos of engaging those you aspire to serve holistically. In the words of John Perkins, relocation, to live among those you intend to reach, is of utmost importance. Through this intentional investment, lives intersect in such a way of neighborly love, fueled by a love of God, and paves the way for transformed lives. Thus, rather than retreat from the dark and dangerous parts of our cities, may we as a people of faith boldly engage and firmly, yet humbly, lead as we advocate for the good of those we serve. However, if we fail to acknowledge a two-kingdom mindset and orient ourselves toward the kingdom of God, we will not succeed in the way God intends, nor in a way that promotes flourishing. Instead, we will lack the hope for “what could be;” imagination for His kingdom on earth; and find ourselves exhausted, burnt out, and a joyless people of no faith.
 Alan Ryan, Augustine, and Augustine, On Augustine: The Two Cities, First Edition. (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016), 60.
 Ibid., 127.
 Ibid., 139.