The Two Cities may be classified as an in-depth theological reflection on citizenship and allegiances. Augustine provides two pertinent Biblical alternatives: the “heavenly city,” which is eternal and the ultimate goal of every true child of God; and the “earthly city,” which may provide some appeal and comfort, but alas, is temporary.
In my opinion the book highlights the ongoing conflict between “walking in the spirit,” as Galatians 5:16 says, and “walking in the flesh.” Those who walk in the spirit, demonstrating Christian character and walking by faith, show that they hope in a “city whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). On the contrary, people whose faith is in their political power, wealth or some other earthly privilege and not in God, demonstrate that they are citizens of the “earthly city (604).”
It seems to me that the author is trying to solve the problem of Christian commitment and the unfortunate tendency of being trapped by the “cares of this world” (Matthew 4:19) and compromising our faith in the process.
In these days of political correctness and diplomacy, I appreciate Augustine’s lack of compromise in boldly addressing the need of his time. It is also impressive that he does this with an in-depth analysis of the situation and not just with zeal that is not grounded in facts. Augustine’s courage and wisdom highlights for me the importance of discerning when to gently and tenderly advise, and when the situation demands a more radical and direct approach. And regardless of the approach, to ensure that my efforts at addressing contemporary needs are based on significant research. Additionally, to be effective, communicating God’s word will always need to be done in a spirit of love. Perhaps, The Two Cities continues to be relevant today because it was inspired by the Spirt and by love. Indeed, if we do not follow the model of Augustine in boldly yet humbly and lovingly addressing the ills of our culture and generation, we risk a slow descent into compromise and becoming watchmen that are asleep while the enemy ravages the sheep. Recently, I was reminded of an outstanding Christian leader who died prematurely partly because he was surrounded by “yes” men who, though Christian, were too afraid to warn him when he made poor decisions. Thus, for me, The Two Cities is a fresh reminder that on this journey to heaven I must invite and offer honest feedback if I want to be one of those who genuinely walk by faith.
It is also remarkable how being a citizen of heaven requires dependence on God (p24). Indeed, as Jeremiah 17:5 points out, it is a curse to “rely on human strength” (NLT). In these days where leadership has been significantly disrupted due to Covid, job losses, lockdowns, fear of the future, and several other challenges, it is imperative that the church remember that we depend upon an immovable and unshakable God, who knows the end from the beginning (Is 46:9-11)