What Do You Grieve?
Neh. 2:10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
Nehemiah was overcome with grief for his people. When he heard the reports coming from Jerusalem, that the gates were burned and the walls destroyed, he was overcome with compassion for his own. His grief was visible to the king and he was sent home to bring about the repairs of the city. When he saw the city and made inspection with his own eyes he again grieved. He wanted to care for the welfare of his people. On the other hand there were those who were greedily looking forward to the complete demise of the Israelites. Sanballat and Tobiah were grieved that someone would "seek the welfare of the children of Israel." It was their own greed and self-centeredness that would not allow them to have any form of compassion for the Israelites and now they grieved when witnessing Nehemiah's passion.
We may think that the reaction of Sanballat and Tobiah is extreme, but there may be times when we need to evaluate our own motivations. What is it in these two that wanted to see the fall of Israel? Are there times that we want to see the demise of others and we are disappointed, or grieved, when things suddenly seem to go well for them? I've listened as ex-spouses cringe when things go well for the other. I've heard "Christians" desire bad things for someone who has done them wrong. At the end of the day, I think it is God who is left grieving -- at the hearts of his children who do not understand true compassion. The hearts of Sanballat and Tobiah should have grieved at the fate of the Israelites, not that there was someone who sought their welfare. Note the language, not only were they grieved, they were exceedingly grieved.
Nehemiah is the one who shows us what true grief ought to be about. His grief was brought on not by a self-centered response, but by his own personal response to the suffering of his people. His was a response that grew out of love and empathy. These are two completely different sources of grief and we need to examine where we may find ourselves on this continuum. Jesus is a leader like Nehemiah. Jesus was overcome with grief for all people. He came in the form of a human to draw humanity back into a salvific relationship with the Father.
If holiness is Christlikeness, then we must find ourselves stepping into the shoes of Jesus and carrying with us the grief that he felt for a lost world. We should be grieved by those around us who are lost. We should be grieved by those around us who are poor. We should be grieved by those around us who are sick. We should be grieved by those around us who are suffering. And then, just as Nehemiah and Jesus, we should pray for God's guidance to take our grief and interact with our world in such a way that we will be used to make a difference.
At the same time -- may the "officials" see our action and be grieved, because it will mess up their own political intents! May our actions grieve the world because the love of Jesus will thwart their desire to use the marginalized of the world for their personal manipulation and gain.
What grieves you today?
Lord, may my heart break for the things that you see. Amen.