With excitement, I’ve been telling everyone I know that I’m moving to Austin, Texas, a city that’s known for being weird which, honestly, I’ll fit in just fine with a slogan like that. However, that’s not what anyone comments on. They comment on how recently Austin has become “very liberal,” that the young people there just want to party on 6th street all the time, that it’s dangerous because it’s overrun with homeless, that the pro-life message I’m going to share won’t be received well, and that I need to “be careful.” It’s true. I work full-time for a nonprofit that exists to abolish abortion and I’m moving to a city where they support abortion so much that the City Council leases a building to an abortion facility for only $1 a year. What has drawn me to Austin is it’s the number one city for young adults to live in, and these young adults, like young people around the country, don’t know their purpose and don’t know truth. Yet that’s exactly what they yearn for. I can’t impact the city and be a light on the hill (read Matthew 5:14) if I hide out and don’t go into the city to be the light. Christians have left places to darkness instead of going and being the light we are called to be. They have left higher education, government, and media because they sought the comfort of a Christian bubble instead of getting outside their comfort zone to speak the truth in these areas. Time and again, the biggest struggle young adults have is that they live without purpose and don’t know how to find their purpose. I grew up in a generation that wants to be change agents, but as Christians, have been told we don’t have a place in society by the secular world and have been told by other believers to stay in places with only other Christians. When morals and ethics and the truth of Jesus started to be harder and harder to come by in education, politics, and media, we abandoned the culture and let it crumble. Our culture lies in a wasteland of ruins with the lack of Christian leadership.
What if instead of hunkering down with only those who believe the same as us, we were called like Nehemiah to go back to the ruins and rebuild? What if we were called to go to the broken places, the dark places, the places that are torn down and need to be rebuilt and restored? What if young people were to leave their comfort zone and step into bold platforms of leadership in society to bring the Way, Truth, and Life of Jesus to our culture through politics, education, media, and business? What if we sought out the most broken places and lived out the gospel there? Jesus did. Nehemiah did.
After a time of sin and rejection of God, Jerusalem fell and many Jews were exiled to Susa. Nehemiah rose to a position close to the king of Susa as a cupbearer (which was considered a position of leadership and prestige) and got word from those left behind in Jerusalem that the conditions were appalling: the wall was still in rubble and those left there were in bad condition. Nehemiah went to God in repentance for the sins of Israel and prayed day and night to intercede for his people. He then went to the king and asked that he be allowed to go to Jerusalem to rebuild it, all while praying for God to help him be successful in his ask. Nehemiah was so bold and trusted God’s provision so much that he also asked the king for letters authorizing him to travel, an escort, and timber to rebuild. He was granted all of these things because he took a stand and asked for them. Then came the time for Nehemiah to actually go to Jerusalem to lead and rebuild. He was met with opposition from rulers nearby who were angry that someone was coming to look after the interests of the people of Israel and to rebuild, but he kept going despite their threats. Nehemiah first had to inspire his fellow Jews to want to help rebuild. He spoke to them of how they were in rough shape, but that God was supporting him and would allow them to succeed in rebuilding. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Some of the Jews didn’t get on board though and protested what he was doing because they didn’t think they could rebuild and restore their city and wanted to rely on the rulers nearby. Nehemiah persisted and gained followers and continued to rebuild. After hard work, gaining followers to help, standing up to the opposition, and continuing to pray they rebuilt the city and restored what was broken. They put back up the Temple of God that served as a light to the world.
Nehemiah could have stayed in a place of comfort and luxury under the King of Susa. He was doing fine and living a good life, but instead, he did the hard thing, the uncomfortable thing, and left the comfort of his job and home and went into the ruins to rebuild. What if we left our nice homes, comfortable church, and a stable job to pursue the restoration of our society and culture?
We will be met with opposition.
We will be criticized by our fellow Christians.
We will have to lead to gain followers.
We will have to get dirty and break a sweat.
We will have to rely on the power of prayer.
We will have to humble ourselves and know we can only succeed through turning to Jesus and his ways and will.
In the end, truth and people’s lives will be restored and we will help build the Kingdom of God. We can infuse truth into society through praying without ceasing, making bold asks of those we know in power, and empowering others to come make a difference with us. Or we could run and hide and say this world is a lost cause, that individuals can’t be saved, and that nations won’t turn to God. Jonah did.
God appeared to Jonah and asked him to go to a kingdom that was overrun with evil and sin, Nineveh, and call the people to repent or God would destroy it. Jonah said no. He went into hiding. When God found him, he ran and boarded a boat only to be thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. When he finally said he would go, though reluctantly and bitterly, the whale carried him to Nineveh. He brought the message to the people, but his heart was not to restore that city and help them rebuild their lives on the ways of God: it was to just to tell them they were sinning and to sit back and watch their destruction. After calling for repentance and prophesying to the town, he literally went and sat under a shade tree and waited to watch the town be destroyed. When the people repented and God showed mercy, Jonah was mad at God for forgiving the people because he was angry and scared of their evil and wanted them to get what they deserved. To Jonah, it was a lost cause, but God wanted to restore this earthly kingdom to bring the glory of His Kingdom to the people. Jonah wanted to live comfortably under his shade tree and call out judgments and watch the world fall. How often do we have this mindset? I often hear Christians say this world isn’t our final destination and people are going to be evil anyway, so why try to make it better. We would rather see it fall than rise up to restore what we can. We call out the sin in others all while hiding our sin and staying comfortable in our homes. Will we sit back and wait for destruction or store up treasures in Heaven, in God’s Kingdom, through leading as many people as we can to restore their lives through Jesus Christ?
Just like Jerusalem and Nineveh were saved through God using people, we can be the vessel God uses to build principles of Truth in our culture and inspire this generation to help build rather than tear down. Where do you start? On your knees praying like Nehemiah; then, go out and boldly ask for the positions and projects you want to lead. Nehemiah first had to start as a servant before the opportunity to lead came along, so first go out and serve the needs you see.
Don’t know where to start? What breaks your heart in this world the most? For me, that’s abortion. It breaks my heart every day and I know I have to do something about it. Whatever breaks your heart is where your deepest passion lies and the biggest opportunity to rebuild what’s broken lies. Then prepare the tools you need, Nehemiah had to go gather timber. Next, Nehemiah had to inspire the people to want to rebuild, so tell others about what you’re doing and the reason why to gain followers to help you. Then, persevere and work hard like Nehemiah did through opposition and through laboring to rebuild the city. God called you and prepared good works for you in advance (read: Ephesians 2:10), which means you have a purpose to fulfill. Step into that calling. Step into leadership in society. The same God who allowed Nehemiah to succeed will be there fighting with you.
So what will it be? Will you be a Jonah and hide in your comfort zone or be a Nehemiah and boldly go back to the ruins of our culture to rebuild?