I’ve only had one fracture that I can remember. I have had plenty of sprains and muscle tears. In each case it became apparent that I could not continue as if damage had not occurred, and it was difficult to pretend I wasn’t in pain. Injuries like this cause pain and need to be addressed.
Of course this is true for our bodies, but it is also true for the fractures or tears which occur in communities. If you have ever been part of a team, worked on a project, dare I say, been part of a church, then you know have likely experienced the pain of a fracture. No matter how good an organisation or how noble its cause, it seems at some point, a misalignment occurs.
Communities can misfire for all sorts of reasons. Over time people can become distracted, their passion changes, they become bored or tired as things don’t move as quickly as they had hoped. External pressures such as illness, work or family can pull them away away from the vision they committed to. Sometimes a crisis comes along, such as a key person becomes ill or there is a change in leadership and it rocks the community. In Nehemiah 5, the people are exploited and enslaved by unscrupulous nobility. A few people have brought their own agenda to the city and the discontent this produces is so profound that the people are ready to leave. The community is on the verge of falling apart.
News of this reaches Nehemiah and he makes a courageous decision. He confronts the situation by calling together all the parties involves, he identifies the problem, reminds people why this is a problem, and then invites the aristocracy to make a better choice which will remedy the situation.
It is tempting to ignore a problem when it occurs in community, and hope it will go away. Very few people enjoy conflict, but Nehemiah understands that what is at stake is greater than his own comfort. He makes the courageous choice to confront the behaviour. Nehemiah knows that if there is going to be justice, if this behaviour or attitude is going to stop, it requires someone be courageous enough to call it out. So he steps up and has the difficult conversation.
This is the beauty and challenge of community. Sometimes we are those who have been hurt by the actions of others and want to walk away. Sometimes we are those who have made choices, pursued the wrong agenda, and been the ones who have hurt the community. Sometimes we are invited to be like Nehemiah.
In community we get the voices of others to speak into our lives when we make choices that threaten unity, and speak into our lives in such a way that they can call us back to a path that is best. Fractures or misalignment happens in communities, and whilst it can be driven by selfish agendas, it can also just unintentionally occur over time or because of an unexpected challenge. When they do occur, Nehemiah 5 invites us to choose to do something. To follow Nehemiah’s example, and to lovingly and courageously confront behaviours which threaten to tear a community apart, and also to be humble enough to listen to the such a voice when we have hurt community.