Next to him … and next to him …
There are many names in Nehemiah 3. It’s hard to pronounce Eliashib, Hassenaah, Meremoth, and so on. To most of us, these are just names. But to Nehemiah, they were real people, with families and stories. The people who worked on the gates and walls mattered to God, and God mattered to them. They worked, prayed, worshiped, laughed, and cried next to each other.
The words “next to” are crucial. God takes seriously our capacity to serve together as a community in doing his work.
Nobody worked alone, trying to control the project. The repairs were made by people working side by side. Their love and care for each other must have caught the eye of people watching them. Their diversity worked in unity. That’s community development at its best.
The apostle Paul knew the story of Nehemiah well. He wrote to explain to a newly formed group of Jesus followers, “A body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12). When we work together to combat hunger, we are the body of Christ. When we join hands and pray for wars to end and peace to reign on earth, we show the unity of Christ. When we serve next to each other in a spirit of unity and grace, Jesus becomes contagious and winsome. It’s the church’s message that Christ is real in us.
Jesus, give me the fruit of the Spirit so that self-control, pa-tience, and goodness are evident in my life. I want to serve with other Christians in the community where you have placed me. Amen.
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