This morning, I read Nehemiah 1-5. And some things stuck out to me like never before. Of course, Nehemiah is the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s great, protective wall, from conception to completion.
In chapter one we read how Nehemiah, in exile, hears the report of Jerusalem’s destruction. And he weeps and pleads with God to grant him favor, so that he may return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. There, in the opening chapter of this story, as Nehemiah cried out to God, he confessed the sins his people had committed that resulted in their exile.
But what stuck out to me from chapter one was how Nehemiah confessed the sin of his people while at the same time acknowledging that he himself was numbered among the guilty. “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you,” Nehemiah says. Notice the stress on his own part in this guilt.
Often, in leadership, I find myself so focused on helping others take that next step towards following Jesus more closely that I forget I myself need to do so as well. To put it in blunter terms: I obsess over the faults of others, while ignoring my own. Jesus said something to this effect in addressing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged….Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1 & 3)
So, this morning, I tried putting this into practice. As I prayed for people, I didn’t merely pray for “so-and-so” who “needs to get this or that right”. I found myself praying a different kind of prayer altogether: “Oh God, we have sinned against you. And I include myself in that. And I am sorry for that, God. So sorry. Please forgive us. Please forgive me. Have mercy on us, dear Lord.”
Somehow I felt this was just what God wanted me to pray: not “them” and rarely “me”, but mostly “us” and “we”.
To read the next entry in this series, click here.