"Modern Day Nehemiahs", Empathy, and Presence
So what do we do? "About what?" you may be asking.
Everything? Ok. That's too broad. Let's narrow down and focus. You find in Nehemiah, chapter 3, this phrase, "building or built in front of his own house." So the question is "what are we going to do about what's in front of us?" Nehemiah's heart had been stirred by God to restore the glory and the safety of the City of Peace and restore it's desolation into a habitation of God.
I can get overwhelmed by the clashing of today's cultural tectonic plates and the instability that ensues. So what do I do? Build what's in front of me. So that leads to the second question. What's in front of me?
A lot, but most importantly....People. That's who's in front of you and me.
We rebuild people. Look at these passages from the bible.
Nehemiah 4:3, "'What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!'"
1 Peter 2:5, "...you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house...."
Song of Songs 2:15, "'Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.'"
We are the stones that God is rebuilding into a wall that makes up the house of God. However, Satan wants us to believe that if even a fox, a fox that destroys the vineyard of God, could destroy it. Foxes try to destroy the word of God. But they can't destroy the word of God or the work of God. The wall was rebuilt in 52 days and in Nehemiah, chapter 7, we find this beautiful language, "These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles..." (v. 6). The exiles returned.
When we build what's in front of us people come home. They find again a family, a safe place. They find the place where they have always belonged...the City of God.
So what do we about what's in front of us? Build people.
How? How do we do that?
Let's start at the beginning of Nehemiah. Look at chapter 1. I'll highlight a few thoughts.
1. (v. 2) Ask questions of those in front of you. Be curious about their journey. Be curious to know them. Ask questions to make a connection. Take an interest in people and communities. Gain knowledge and be empowered about what is happening in front of you.
2. (v. 3) Dialogue. Be ready to hear what people have to say.
3. (v. 4) Listen. Don't listen to figure out your next answer. Don't listen to the thoughts in your head, so much that you have a deaf ear to the person in front of you. Listen. Reflect it back to them. Listen for emotion and values.
4. (v.4) Have a seat. Taking a seat is a symbol of permanence. It communicates, "I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not in a hurry. You are important."
5. (v.4) Be empathetic. Nehemiah wept. He's 1000 miles from Jerusalem and he wept for his city and his people. Regardless of how distant you may be from the one in front of you (emotionally distant, financially distant, culturally distant, historically distant) you can still weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Keep your heart tender.
6. (v. 5) Pray. Make prayer your default position when rebuilding. Pray with passion. Pray with faith. Pray with your cheeks wet with tears. Tears water your faith and help create growth. Nehemiah, in his prayer identified with the sins and the condition of Israel. There was no finger pointing or blaming, just honest, humble intercession. He put himself in the shoes of another. That reminds me of another man. Read Philippians 2 and you'll know more about him.
7. (Ch. 2 v.11) Go. Nehemiah left the comfort and the protection of the King's palace. He left his vocation to engage his calling. A man of government responded and partnered with the church (Israel) for the restoration of the city. Church and politics should not be enemies, but allies seeking heaven's wise and powerful solutions for today's broken walls.
In front of you are broken people whose walls have been torn down. Help rebuild.