Last night I was checking email and saw a spam message with the subject line: “Ezra.” For some crazy reason I decided to pick up my Bible, turn to Ezra, and read the first chapter. I’m so glad I did.
Ezra is a story about restoration and healing. The temple of the Lord had been demolished by intruders and was in complete disorder. In Ezra we read of a people who were moved by God to rebuild and restore what was dear to His heart.
“Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.” . . . Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.
(Ezra 1:3, 5)
This caused me to think: If God cared so much about the condition of a building, how much more does He care about the condition of people? Also, if His people were so heart-broken over the earthly temple’s desolated condition, how much more should God’s people be broken over those whose lives have been desolated?
Often we do not realize the hurt and pain others are going through because we are so wrapped up in our own grief. But as ambassadors for Christ we are called to lay aside our own pain and set our hearts to build up the people around us who are even more desperate for a touch from Him.
Before Jesus went to the cross he sat with his friends and had dinner. Although he knew that every single one of them would, in a matter of hours, abandon Him out of fear He chose to spend time with them anyway. More than this, He demonstrated an act of servant-hearted love by washing their feet. Most of us cannot imagine serving a person that we knew would soon betray us to a cruel death. Nor can we imagine looking into the eyes of a friend and graciously saying, “You are clean” to someone who was about to deny they were ever in our company. But Jesus did. He not only suffered for the sake of the twelve but went to a cross to plead God’s forgiveness on behalf of those who maliciously plotted to put him there—and for us. His attitude of “Father, forgive them for the do not know what they are doing” demonstrates a love and a compassion that is beyond anything we could ever comprehend.
If we are to be like Jesus we may find ourselves, more than once, looking into the face of a betrayer; or praying for and loving a friend who is running away from God. But when we are obedient to the call of God to “Do nothing from selfishness . . .
but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”
(Philippians 2:3-4), the result is healing—on both sides.
The passage continues:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant . . . He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
The verse that keeps coming back to me is Colossians 3:12-17:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
God will give us the grace to “build up” the “temples” around us (“we are the temple of the living God” 2 Cor 6:16). The question is: will we allow ourselves to be stirred?
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:11-12)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)