THE ENEMY AMONG US

Written By: David Stephens
All through the chronicles of Nehemiah’s rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, we see a pattern of God’s faithfulness. Nehemiah’s brokenness and prayer were met by God giving him not just a call, but the courage and resources to fulfill it. And later, He gave victory over opposition

Then, in chapter 5, something changes. The change wasn’t in God’s faithfulness, but in the hearts of his people. Talk of the work on the walls had fallen silent. There was only talk of fighting among the people. One group complained about another. One group was oppressed. The other was the oppressor. And there was no talk of the work on the walls. 

God’s people had witnessed His goodness and kindness toward them. They had fought against the enemy and had triumphed. The work on the walls and gates had continued, even in the middle of taunting and threats. But now, there was a different enemy and the enemy was among them. The enemy was themselves.

And the work had stopped. 

Isn’t that the way it always goes? Jesus said it best. A house divided against itself, cannot stand (Mark 3:25). And a rebuilding crew, divided against itself, falls desperately behind schedule. 

So what caused the division? Was it greed? Maybe. But it sounds more like indifference.

Perhaps, in the business of the task, God’s people had simply become indifferent to caring for each other. Both sides had lost sight of the mission, the wonder, and started looking at the economics of it all. Doing God’s work was replaced with contractual agreements. Self preservation had absorbed their hearts and replaced the mission.

And indifference, when left unchecked, can look a lot like oppression.

Anytime we turn our gaze from one thing to another, we become indifferent to the one thing. And anytime we turn our gaze to something other than God, we become indifferent to God. And in His place we create a new idol. Tim Keller describes an idol as “...anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God.” 

Their story can be my story. I can easily justify my lack of generosity to my brothers and sisters. It sounds like, “I need to look over my finances first,” or “Man, if it were any other week. I’m just so busy this week.” But at the end of the day, it always boils down to indifference. My brother’s needs might touch my heart, but not deeply enough to shake me out of my indifference. My sister’s situation might motivate me to do something, but not strongly enough to push through my indifference. I see the economics of it all, but miss the wonder of it all. And my own needs, my own self,  become my idol. 

Jesus said we are to love each other, just like he loves us (John 13:34). I’m so very thankful that Jesus is never indifferent to me. He looks at me and sees a man made in the image of God. He knows the wonder and He delights in it. He is always there, as if I was the most important person in all of creation. 

Lord, rescue us from indifference.
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