I would like to celebrate making it to “August 12” in the one-year Bible my mom gave me two Christmases ago. (Snails do get where they need to go, even if their pace is not spectacular.)
I have plowed through the drudgery of Leviticus and Numbers, skipped lightly over the genealogies of Chronicles (I pray God’s forgiveness for skimming), and have made myself dizzy shaking my head through Kings, “and he did evil…and he did evil…and he did evil…”
Now I’ve made it to one of my all-time favorite books, Nehemiah. I never get tired of this story, because it shows how God can use someone who cares.
Nehemiah sets out to repair the wall of Jerusalem:
The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. They also repaired five hundred yards of the wall as far as the Dung Gate. (Nehemiah 3:13 NIV)
Hanun does not repair the entire wall of Jerusalem, just the 500 yards in front of him. That’s five football fields worth of wall repaired by one man and the residents of a small town in Israel -a lot of work but do-able.
I’ve been reading Generous Justice, by Timothy Keller, in which he talks about the grace of the gospel and how it should compel us to practice justice in the world. Jesus cared about the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the alien, and the oppressed. How can we say we know him if we don’t care for these as well?
But when I start thinking of all these people, the immense need almost paralyzes me. Certainly I can’t care for all of them.
But I am greatly encouraged by Hanun. He and the people in his town take on one section of brokenness.
As I’m writing this, I get a text from a friend asking if I can take a meal to a single mom who just had surgery.
That’s one yard in front of me right now.
I can’t care for all the single moms in the world or even in my town or church, but I can help this one today. I can put some chicken and beans in a crockpot –buy some tortillas. This I can do.
I am very weak in practicing social justice, and this makes me feel like a failure, but I come across Isaiah 1:17 (The Voice translation):
Learn to do good; commit yourselves to seeking justice. Make right for the world’s most vulnerable –the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow.
As I tell God I feel like a failure, he says, Well, learn.
Maybe caring for the needs of people doesn’t come naturally to us, and it’s something we have to go to school for. We need to open the Bible and study God’s compassion and who he cares about –let the words seep in until we begin to care all the time, too.
Practice makes perfect, eh?
When you think of the needs of the most vulnerable in your community, what do you see as your “500 yards”?
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