Day: September 5, 2017


I’m sure the first time I heard about rumors, it was from legendary pop band Bananarama – I’m sure because if there’s anything I know, it’s ‘80’s music. It’s really amazing, my depth of knowledge, and I’m not positive how I feel about that. Anyway, rumors. Sadly, it wasn’t the last experience I had with rumors (or Bananarama, for that matter, Cruel Summer being a high point of The Karate Kid and my life). It’s the currency of our time (any time, probably, if I were to be honest) – the spread of information, accurate or not.
Nehemiah faced this very same thing. In Neh. 6:5-8, his nemesis, Sanballat, sent a letter full of lies (“There is no truth in any part of your story”), and left the letter unsealed, so that anyone and everyone could see the allegations. How many times have we been in the middle of this mess of ‘he said, she said,’ and ‘well, I heard…?’ Once, my mom (no, not my mom!!!) approached me with uncomfortable questions about rumors she had heard. No one is immune from the marketplace of (mis)information. It’s often hurtful and always about power and insecurity.
Even in spiritual circles, it only changes the words. Here is this juicy bit of gossip, shaded with a pseudo-caring, “so we can pray for them.” No one is immune.
David Guzik writes, “Many people live paralyzed by the fear of what others are saying about them, or what they might say about them.”
Benjamin Franklin’s proverbs says, “Since I cannot govern my own tongue, tho’ within my own teeth, how can I hope to govern the tongues of others?”
So, what do we do, faced with these fears?
If we can’t do anything about it, it’s probably wise to let it go, right? But, that’s easier said than done, and people that tell you to are monsters (even if they might be right).
I’m not telling you to let it go, I’m not a monster.
Nehemiah didn’t really let it go, he took it to His God and asked Him to even the score, to exact a level of holy justice (v. 14). Gasp!
I used to think that those who followed Jesus were milquetoast carpets. (My son, Samuel, coined the term. He didn’t remember ‘doormat,’ so he said ‘carpet,’ “because people walk all over them.” And that was perfect.) In my head, they just walked around, smiling, whispering, and trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Like pretending Stepford girls and boys. Or circles (no edges). They were that way in my head because that was what I saw, in real life.
The problem was, No one in the bible was like Christians I knew. Nehemiah’s response was completely consistent with the others in the Scriptures.
Psalm 139:19, immediately following the beautiful ‘wonderfully made/You knew me before I was born’ section, David moves into “O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!’ Many, many more of the Psalms share similar sentiments.
36:26 “May those who rejoice at my troubles be humiliated and disgraced.”
55:15 “Let death seize my enemies by surprise.”
And try 109:6-15 and 137:8-9 for just 2 more.
Now, I’m obviously not advocating we ask God to “trample our enemies (Ps 60),” or “strike my enemies on the jaw (Ps 3).”
What I am advocating is an honest relationship with God. If there is one transparent, open love, let it be here. There can be no acting, no hypocrisy, no image-making, no faking, no pretending. In this relationship, we are free to be every bit of who we are, even the super-ugly parts.
Of course, in this relationship, we will change. The end game is that we “love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).”
But, only if it’s real – not just words we speak aloud in front of others.
We bring all of who we are, like Nehemiah, to the feet of Our God, even if it’s to ask Him to wear them out, and then we are free to move on.
Nehemiah was free to get back to work, building that wall in Jerusalem. We are free to get back to our lives, singing and dancing and scrapbooking and playing guitar and whatever it is that we do, unencumbered with the weight of their expectations, their judgment, their unsealed letters.
The End
[There is a possibility that this sounds like a contradiction of the Nehemiah 5 addendum last week. That doesn’t make either of them less true – see Proverbs 26:4 and 5. We’ll talk about that another day…]