Nehemiah was born in Babylon—born in captivity far away from what should have been his home, Jerusalem. And yet, he cared about this city deeply. In fact, when he hears that the walls were broken down and the gates were burned with fire, he weeps over this city before going there. Missionaries have a similar response to the brokenness they hear about or see. The sorrow they share with God prompts them to action.
In Proverbs 4, we're instructed to "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life." (Proverbs 4:23). That's because our hearts are susceptible to the condition Nehemiah found in Jerusalem—“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28) Without walls, anything can enter our hearts and take residence in the place God alone designed to reign in. Sometimes people with broken down walls don’t even realize it. Most of the time, they don’t know how to repair those walls without help.
In Jerusalem, Nehemiah had a choice. He could criticize those who let the wall crumble, condemn those who didn’t build the wall strong enough, or become apathetic about the current condition of the wall. He could build new walls that separated him from the brokenness so he wouldn’t have to see it. But…Nehemiah chose to enter into the brokenness before him, and with the help of others, repair and restore what was knocked down.
In our personal lives…in our families…in our communities…in our world, we also have a choice. We can build walls of judgement, or condemnation, or separation that keep us at a distance from the brokenness around us. Or…in the Spirit and through the Spirit, we can choose to restore the brokenness we see everywhere. Since all believers are missionaries, our hearts should break over the brokenness we see and hear about. It won’t be easy, but only in and through Christ can we help those in brokenness become rebuilt and restored.