Focal passage: Nehemiah 5:1-13
As Christians, we cannot separate who we are from what we do.
A few months ago, one of my friends was caught in a terribly cold rainstorm on the grounds of Duke University. Although she made her way to the campus store and had access to a vast supply of Blue Devil umbrellas and rain gear, my friend chose to risk pneumonia instead of making a purchase.
You might be wondering why someone would do such a thing. Well, my friend loves the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As a Tar Heel fan, it would go against her very identity to wear royal blue. My friend would rather end up at urgent care than break her allegiance to her favorite college team.
As Christians, our allegiance is to Christ. We are to honor Him in all areas of our life. And yet, we are often tempted to live and act in ways that do not bring Him glory.
Nehemiah faced this same challenge while rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. He and other officials were obedient to God’s direction in reconstruction efforts, but at the same time they were exacting unfair interest from their fellow countrymen. These leaders claimed allegiance to God while taking advantage of the vulnerable in their own communities.
After listening to the outcry of the people, Nehemiah realized these actions were not right. He understood that how we treat others is a reflection of how we honor God. He asked the officials, “Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies?” (Nehemiah 5:9). Nehemiah and his companions repented of their sin and committed to honoring God in the way they treated the less fortunate in their community.
My friend in the rainstorm was acutely aware that even purchasing a Duke umbrella would distort her identity as a Tarheel fan. Nehemiah realized that by exacting unfair interest, he was distorting his witness to the foreigners around him.
As Christians, we must be quick to repent when we realize our actions do not faithfully represent the God we serve. In doing so, we protect our fellowship with God and proclaim our devotion to His Kingdom.