Working next to others

Church life, as with family and employment life, requires coexistence with others. It’s inescapable, the church is comprised of many different people, existing and operating as the body of Christ. Therefore, as members of this diverse body, we do things together; worship, pray, fellowship, eat, serve, make disciples, etc. Working together is central to most of our activities as Christians. It takes work with effort, to pull it all together, functioning as a healthy family of God, operating in unison for His common purpose.

As Nehemiah describes how Israel went about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah chapter 3 records some revealing phrases; “next to him,” “next to them,” and “after them.” A few words which  communicate much about the attitude and actions of a large work force. Nehemiah makes his point even stronger by repeating these phrases approximately 30 times in chapter 3 alone. While there are many lessons to be learnt from Nehimiah, a few catch my attention today.

As Nehemiah was God appointed, and assigned by the King as leader of this rebuilding project, he unashamedly informed those who opposed him that the God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build… (Neh 2:20). Opposition strengthened their resolve to get on with the job God had set for them. They had both a spiritual mandate and determination to carry out God’s will. Nehemiah 3:1 tells us that Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they started the building project. As soon as stage 1 was done they consecrated it to the Lord. Spiritual leadership set the standard and ensured everyone knew this project was God’s work.

Then we have the first use of the statement, and next to him; that is, next to Eliashib the high priest, the men of Jericho built (Neh 3:2). The labourers followed the working spiritual leadership of Eliashib. Nehemiah wisely joined with Eliashib to head this massive project. These 2 men first bonded in doing God’s work themselves, then in calling others to follow them by working with them. Of necessity, everyone had to sacrifice fierce individuality to operate as a unit. This was the only way God’s rebuilding project could ever succeed. This huge work force, from priest to rubble carrier, along with all the required support people, worked together. They worked next to each other, in close proximity to one another, one after the other in the structured  chain of operations needed for their single minded purpose – get the wall rebuilt.

The spiritual leadership and building principles implemented by Nehemiah and Eliashib were simple enough, yet they required the typical everyday labourer to join in and make it happen. Otherwise, the wall would remain nothing but a pile of useless rubble. This is a timeless principle for all of God’s people in all of God’s work. God’s people must work in single minded close proximity with one another to accomplish God’s purposes.

The apostle Paul requested this of the Philippian’ church. Paul wanted to hear that they were  standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents… (Philippians 1:27-28). While God’s opponents will always try to divide and separate God’s work force, God’s people pull together. Unity is powerful when it begins in our hearts and minds with soft humble attitudes towards one another.

May this principle be true in each of our lives today, as we seek to serve side by side in harmony for the common purpose of Jesus’ gospel, beginning in our own local church congregations.

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