Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. - Nehemiah 4:17-18 NKJV
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you - Matthew 5: 43-44 NKJV
This week’s theme is our role as protectors. We must hide ourselves within God and protect ourselves in order to protect others. Family, friends, and neighbors are absolutely in need of our protection, and it’s easy for us to muster courage to defend those who love us. I have found it much harder to follow Jesus' direction to extend that love and protection to “enemies” who hate me. In Matthew, Jesus drives the point home by saying that even the heathens and pagans love and protect their own, but we are called to do more. (Mt 5:46-48) If you’re like me, you would probably say you don’t have any enemies. But we can easily make rhetorical enemies of people we don’t want to protect. We marginalize people and separate them from us for all kinds of reasons.
As a young person, I worked at a coffee shop in the city. We would see all types, from the successful to the destitute; the wealthy to the homeless. Working that job forced me to confront my own judgment of people and my attitudes toward them. It was incredibly easy to resent the well-to-do, who were usually full of entitlement and very vocal about anything wrong with their coffee. It was also very easy to despise the homeless man who came into the store stinking, driving away business, and sometimes doing drugs in the bathroom. I realized that I could choose to hate anyone I wished and devise ways to justify why I hated them. Anyone can become marginalized; anyone can be despised. I also realized I could choose the opposite.
In my mind, I picture the workers of the old kingdom rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem under Nehemiah. That picture is a stunning representation of strength as men were building a wall with one hand and defending the city with a sword in the other. We, too, as kingdom men, build the protective walls that we have been discussing all week. We are required to defend ourselves against those who would harm us. Our task, as kingdom men, is to draw in the marginalized…the refugees…the homeless, and protect them as members of Jesus’ flock. We must also guard against the wolves in sheep’s clothing, who if let in, would threaten us from the inside. Not an easy task, but no one said this was going to be easy.
Daily Battle Order:
Today, consider the judgments and categories you group people into. Who is behind your wall, benefiting from your protection? Who is outside being met with your sword? Who is inside that needs to be thrown out? Who is outside that needs to be brought in?