Speak and Listen in Love

Challenge Central: a CBC devotional

by: Pastor Lars Janssen

This Sunday, I have the privilege of preaching from Nehemiah 5. We’re going to learn more about how God’s people must be united in God’s work by loving God and other people. But as I have been preparing, verse 10 has jumped off the page as an excellent example of humble courage. Let me offer you some context before I explain.

Some Jews had just lodged several serious complaints with Nehemiah—complaints about lending and interest levelled against other Jews. This was an internal problem within the community of God’s people. Nehemiah had listened and proceeded to lay out the accusations before the offenders. The guilty parties had no defense for their actions—they were silent. In this awkward silence, Nehemiah encouraged them to “walk in the fear of our God” (Nehemiah 5:9) and then he said this:
“Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.” (Nehemiah 5:10)

This statement was so unexpected as I read it—I had to read it over several times. Nehemiah included himself among the offenders. Apparently, he and his servants had also been lending money at interest. It does seem like Nehemiah’s method of lending was less ruthless than the other leaders’ method—they had taken possession of property when their debtors defaulted while Nehemiah acquired no property (see verse 16). Yet Nehemiah included himself as part of the problem, making no excuses, and invited his fellow offenders to join him in becoming part of the solution.

Think about this for a moment. We recognize from verses 1-5 that the victims of this lending-with-interest problem approached their leader, Nehemiah. Verse 10 tells us that Nehemiah was one of the lenders! This means that God’s people were courageous enough to humbly point out Nehemiah’s error. This also means that God’s leader, Nehemiah, was humbly courageous enough to admit to his error and address the problem. This is great leadership! This is great faithfulness by those being led!

Christian leaders must “shepherd the flock of God that is among [us], exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have [us]; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in [our] charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3) This is what Nehemiah did. And all Christians must not bury their insights, but “rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) The Jews did this for Nehemiah.

The body of Christ is a living thing. Be humble, yes, but be courageous also. Your pastors and deacons are not perfect. We need you to speak the truth in love even as we humbly lead you. We must all speak and listen in love for God’s glory and our good.

« All Hands on Deck!
Foxholes & Followers »