The People Right Beside You

by Oct 24, 2017

Do you know the people right beside you? The people you work shoulder to shoulder with, the people you share a wall of your house with, the people who bring their kids to the same park as you, the people you worship with on Sunday morning…do you really know those people? In Nehemiah 5, the rebuilding of the wall came to a dramatic halt, because the people working side by side to rebuild the wall didn’t know each other well, and didn’t love each other well. They couldn’t accomplish the amazingly impossible thing God had called them to do, because of the way they were treating each other. How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?

Love Each Other
The Jews had dropped everything else going on in life to help the rebuilding project, which meant that they weren’t working their fields. Since they weren’t getting food from their fields, they had to find money in order to get food. So they were taking loans from their neighbors. Unfortunately, many of their neighbors were punks. They would give the loan, but then charge a crazy amount of interest, throwing the family into poverty and desperation (so much so that they were having to sell their kids in order to survive!). Instead of loving their neighbors, they were exploiting their neighbors and looking for ways to put their neighbors in debt. God does’t want us to put each other in our debt; he wants us to love each other. I haven’t heard of anyone in our church giving someone else a loan and then charging crazy interest, but I have heard of people putting others in their debt in other ways.

Maybe you feel like you serve more than other people at your church. You look at them just enjoying themselves while you’re working and sweating away and you start to think less of them. Or you know the count of how many times you’ve babysat their kids compared to how many times they’ve babysat your kids. Or you know how many times that person has said something insensitive to you. And you’ve put these people, your brothers and sisters, in your debt. They owe you. They owe you an apology. They owe you their time. They owe you their effort and energy. And you know what will happen? Seeds of bitterness and resentment will grow in our church, and the building of the wall (i.e. building a beautiful church together) will come to a screeching halt.

Be Aware Of Each Other
Remember back in chapter 3 when every one was working on the wall, and it said that they all were working side by side? Well how in the world did they miss the fact that the guy working next to them wasn’t working his field and eating? Or that the family next to them were missing a kid because the kid was sold into slavery? How did it go this long without people noticing and speaking up? Because they were too focused on the wall, and not aware of each other. God help us not to become a church that’s too focused on our programs that we aren’t aware of each other. Guys we aren’t a church that’s going to build and grow and expand at the expense of people. Paul says that a church is a place where people carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Which means that we know what each other’s burdens are and we’re ready to help carry them.

Whose burdens are you aware of in your church right now? Whose are you helping to carry? Or are their marriages crumbling in your church and you don’t even know about them? Are there people struggling financially or struggling with loneliness or could just use a break for a night, and you see them every week and smile and keep yourself busy… just like those people did building the wall.

If Harbor West is your home church, I want to encourage you to be intimately involved in a community group. That’s where this kind of awareness happens. That’s where we get to know what’s happening in each other’s lives, and live out carrying each other’s burdens. Some of us who are committed to a community group need to be more open and honest about your burdens. Some of us need to push past the normal questions of hey whats up how are you and ask, no really, how are you? Some of us need to be more ready and willing to carry those burdens when they come up.

Bless Each Other
We’re told over and over in Scripture that we are blessed to BE a blessing to others. We see in Nehemiah 5:14-18 that Nehemiah was blessed with a fortune. The dude was loaded! And each night he blessed 150 people with a prime dinner (an ox, birds, choice wine). He understood that God had blessed him so that he would be a blessing to his brothers and sisters. How have you been blessed in order to bless others? Maybe you have a large house and can host people for holidays who don’t have any other family. Maybe you’ve been blessed with spare time and you can help a stressed mom who is struggling to get everything done each week. Maybe you’ve been blessed financially and can help someone who just lost their job.

Who is God encouraging you to bless? If no one comes to mind, then that’s something we need to think and pray about until God answers that prayer. We’re always blessed to be a blessing. It’s part of what makes a beautiful community; a beautiful church.

Jesus was all about loving people, being aware of their needs, and blessing them lavishly. He himself said that it was the reason he came! In Luke 4 he stood up in the synagogue and read from Isaiah: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'”

The time had come. The time to speak good news to the poor. To set captives and those who are in debt free. The time to bless others had arrived. It’s Jesus who brings it. It’s Jesus who teaches us to love each other. It’s Jesus who sets captives free and releases us from our debts. It’s Jesus who blesses us lavishly. And if we’re going to be a church that follows Jesus, then we’re going to be a compassionate church who love each other, are involved in each other’s lives, and who are eager, eager to bless each other.

Let’s follow Jesus that way together as a church, and watch him use us to accomplish the amazingly impossible together.