Some problems in life are so big they are overwhelming. At the beginning of the book of Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The people living there had grown accustomed and indifferent to the ruin around them, but Nehemiah’s heart was broken by it. He was determined to rebuild the walls and take away the disgrace of his people. In the midst of pursuing this mission, Nehemiah discovered a horrifying truth about his own people: they were participating in the very system of slavery that kept them in ruin. Nehemiah’s approach to the mission of rebuilding and his confrontation of the slavery among his people, can teach us valuable lessons about how we can confront the overwhelming problems we face in our world.
Read Luke 4:14-21. How, in your own words, would you describe Christ’s mission using these verses if you were explaining to someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible?
Hearing that there are more than 40 million people trapped in slavery is staggering. Take a minute and try to let that reality sink in. Then consider Micah 6:8: “…And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” What does acting justly look like regarding the poor, the oppressed and the enslaved in the world today?
Consider the struggle against slavery in the 19th century, or the struggle against child labor, or the American civil rights movement. In each era, churches not only deployed those with specialized expertise and skill to do the work of justice—but churches also joined in by raising their voices as advocates for the poor. What can the church do to support those who are severely oppressed and enslaved today? What would it look like for the church to actually lead the fight against slavery until all are free?
Defending the cause of the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17) can seem overwhelming. How does Nehemiah’s approach to a daunting task (in Neh. 5:7-13) give you encouragement to take action? What steps did he take that you can follow? What would those steps look like in your life?
Has indifference ever crept into your thinking about any of these issues of justice and the oppressed? Take some time to pray by yourself or in your small group. Ask God to give you His compassion for the oppressed. Ask God to help you to act on behalf of the powerless and the voiceless.
To learn more about engaging in the work of justice around the world go to www.ijm.org and to learn more about helping women rescued from trafficking locally, go to thesamaritanwomen.org