True Jesus Church Christians are what most would describe as ‘peace-loving’. We shy away from conflict. We would prefer to keep silent as opposed to involving ourselves in confrontational situations. Consequently, when pertinent issues arise, there have been times where we might have chosen not to speak up. We might have decided against making a clear stand in order not to offend others, and to maintain harmony.
Ironically, by doing so, we might indirectly allow present problems to worsen. Then, peace is not merely unpreserved. More conflict and unrest might ensue as a result as well.
The intention of my sharing is not to encourage the practice of finding fault with others, and rebuking them for it. When we help each other in the faith, we do so out of humility and pure intention. At the same time, we must be prepared to accept the loving criticisms of our brethren that we ourselves might improve as well. The Bible also places great emphasis on showing care and concern for our brethren. More often than not, the gentle, loving approach should be utilised at the initial stages of mutual correction. After all, Proverbs 25:15 tells us that “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” Some of our brethren do indeed turn back after a period of exposure to gentle counselling and care.
However, if the person remains unpenitent, or if it was an egregious wrong that had been committed, our corrective approach must change. These situations behove us to be seemingly loveless, strict, and forceful. Such measures are taken for the congregation to understand that such practices are impermissible in God’s sight. If nothing is done, some might be misled into thinking that what the person is doing is acceptable. Consequently, they might stumble in the faith.
In Chapter 13, Nehemiah ‘contended’ with the Israelites three times. The second time ‘contended’ is used is in v17. Nehemiah contended with the nobles of Judah over the doing of business on the Sabbath. v15 states that he warned the people of Judah “about the day on which they were selling provisions”. After warning the people, and contending with the nobles, Nehemiah took drastic steps to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. v19-22 describes how Nehemiah commanded the gates to be shut before Sabbath began, that no burdens (stocks) could enter the city till after the Sabbath. He shouted threats to the merchants, demanding that they left the vicinity of Jerusalem. He also forced the Levites to cleanse themselves, and to guard the gates.
Nehemiah’s actions probably made him grossly unpopular with his people. Firstly, he deprived the people of profiteering opportunities. The Sabbath was, and remains to this day, an excellent time to make money. Secondly, he had contended with the nobles, powerful, well-connected individuals of high standing. It is likely that people would be wary of one who appears to be an enemy of these nobles. Lest they be judged as wanting to ‘consort with the enemy’, they might elect to keep a distance from Nehemiah. Thirdly, he gave the Levites extra responsibilities on top of their existing priestly duties. Additional work is not usually well-received.
Yet, for the sake of keeping God’s word, Nehemiah had the courage and strength to pursue righteousness. Nehemiah was a wise leader, and would probably have considered the consequences of his actions. Despite understanding that he might lose the respect and affection of his people, he prioritised God over amiable relations with his people. He had to be austere in order to guide them back onto the right path. v23-27 tells us of how Nehemiah went so far as to pull the hair of some men out for marrying foreign wives! This was a testament to his reverence for God and His commands.
Chances are that we will not have to do any hair-pulling in church today. However, to protect the truth and the church,we might very well have to do what is unpopular. We might lose the respect and favour of others. We might be left feeling alone, and friendless. However, as long as what we do is in accordance with His good will, He will be alongside us as we weather our storms, and shine the light of His countenance upon us. Romans 8:28 reads as such: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Let us pray for strength and wisdom to do what is required of us as Christians of the True Jesus Church.