This article focuses on the Biblical perspectives of loving and caring for own people. The topic will be discussed in series by looking at various biblical examples. The main focus, as if now, is on the life of Nehemiah for his concern of his own people and land.
Loving enough to Ask; Caring enough to Weep
Some may think it is a sign of spiritual degradation when we talk about caring our own people; since it sounds too selfish. Some may even go further by saying that the Bible teaches that we should love others as ourselves, not ourselves to ourselves. However, the heart of loving and caring others is not first in others, but in us. In fact, the Bible says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). Loving unseeable God makes no sense when we don’t have love for brothers and sisters with whom we live together. Moreover if we don’t love our people, it is hard to imagine loving others whom we don’t really know. And for instance, if you don’t care enough of your life, how could you really suggest someone else to take care of his or her life?
We need to remember always the words of our Lord Jesus Christ regarding the unfair judgmental attitude: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5). Before we pass judgment on any matter, we must look at ourselves whether we are really in a position to judge the matter at all. In our Christian living also before we suggest others how they can be a good Christian, we must live a good Christian life. Before we tell others about any effective spiritual living method, we should practice it; so that we can tell others with our life’s example. The principle applies in loving and caring own people too. We can hardly love and care others unless we know how to take good care of ourselves!
A Man of God who Asked and Wept for His own People
A tremendous example of loving and caring own people in the Bible is a man of God named Nehemiah. He was an exilic Jew in Persian kingdom by that time. He was serving as a cupbearer in the palace. He must have had a good education too. He was trusted by the king. So the king placed him in a position as cupbearer in his royal palace. Nevertheless his job was not an easy one. Being a cupbearer he had to place his life at stake. He had to taste first everything the king eats or drinks to make sure the food is not poisoned. In addition to that he must have had been living a comfortable life since his job was in and around the palace. But a comfortable life did not make Nehemiah to lose his concern for his own people.
While serving in the palace a man named Hananiah came from Jerusalem and met Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s first question to Hananiah was something like ‘how is our people (Jews) in our native land (Jerusalem)?’ (Neh. 1:2). Can you imagine a man living in a popular city asking sincerely about the condition of people, who live in a backward and unfamiliar area such as in a village? The genuine concern for villagers by people living luxuriously in metropolitan cities is rare to find. Even some villagers once they got into metropolitan cities often have a tendency to forget the condition of village. And neglect to do anything good for his or her people. But for Nehemiah the concern for his people back at home was a priority. His comfort in the palace did not replace his care for his own people, who were in distress. His luxury lifestyle in the palace did not diminish his love for his own people, who were in oppression. These reflect that Nehemiah cared enough to ask the condition of his brothers and sisters back at home.
Nehemiah did not just inquire about his people. He was moved to weep for his people at the tragic report (Neh. 1:4). He was told that his people were in distress in the midst of their enemies. The sacred city wall of the Jerusalem was broken down. And the city gates were burnt up by their oppressors. His people’s life in Jerusalem was in miserable. Nehemiah cared enough to weep for his own people. He cared enough to show how he was disturbed by such a glum report. It seems, he might have forgotten for sometime his honorable position as a servant to the king by hearing the news. These kinds of emotion will pop-up only when genuine love and care for own people is in the heart. Only those who have genuine love and care for own people can make difference in the lives of those who are distressed and oppressed. Someone once said, “Only those who have concerned much about the welfare of the people have demonstrated most spirituality in their Christian living.”
Reflections for Self-Examination
Do we feel comfortable with our comfort when our people are in trouble? What will be our response, if we hear this kind of report about our own people? True fear of God drives man of God to care his own people in times of trouble. True love of own people moves man of God to ask the condition of his own people. True care of own people is demonstrated in the eyes filled with sorrowful tears and heart filled with genuine restlessness concerns. And love and care of own people will prompt man of God to act on anything that can bring prosperous godly life. Will you love your own so that you can love others? Will care your own to know what it means to care others? May God enable us to do just as He enabled Nehemiah to act justly for his own people!