That was the recurrent theme of the nehemiah international network leaders’ gathering. From November 10-18, leaders from the various nehemiah Teams came together at the Home of Blessing in Thailand. In addition to further development of the network with its wide array of projects, the gathering was about nurturing trust and growing together as leaders. To this end, the heartfelt hospitality of the Home of Blessing provided the ideal atmosphere. But what does “Jesus-like” mean – and what does it mean to be his “body” in this world as opposed to withdrawing from this world?
We only become more like Jesus if we involve ourselves with him. The first step towards involving ourselves with him is to take a good, conscious look at him: by taking time for him, listening to him in prayer, opening myself to him, making room for him in my life. Likewise, living in this world means involving ourselves with the people in this world. We are called to turn away from this world’s destructive ways (revenge, power, greed, hatred, stinginess, etc.), but not to turn away from people. Involving ourselves with this world, however, also means involving ourselves with the world’s needs and challenges. The first step is to take a good, conscious look!
The love of God leaves its imprint in my life. Wherever I open myself and my heart, my innermost being is touched. These are the places where my hardness, fear, bitterness, and cowardliness melt away. Where Jesus touches my heart, faith, trust, and courage grow. I don’t remain stuck in my own needs. My faith grows beyond my own little sphere. Mercy grows, as does the desire to do something about the suffering and the injustices of this world. Through the touch of God, I find the power and the courage to let myself be touched by the people of this world – including those who don’t live on the sunniest side of life: the poor, the refugees, the lonely, those on the outside looking in. Living in this world then takes on new meaning to me: I no longer try to avoid people and their problems, their needs. My heart allows itself to be touched by them.
Jesus wants to do more, though, than just touch scattered parts of my life. He wants a relationship, wants friendship with me. Likewise, it’s also necessary to build relationships if we want to live in this world. People aren’t primarily looking for Christian events; they’re looking for relationship and friendship. At the moment, we in the Western world – as a result of relentlessly egocentric materialism – are seeing people become increasingly lonely and incapable of experiencing community. The people in our world need genuine friendship.
Friendship with Jesus changes me. Bit by bit, my life becomes more of a reflection of the person, the character, and the essence of Christ. The people around me notice this – but only inasmuch as I am willing to allow friendship and relationship. Only then will they come close enough to me to read the “letter from Christ” (2 Cor. 3:3) or smell the “fragrant aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15). It’s when I get involved with people and their needs, become open to their questions, and let myself be “touched” by them that this leads to change for them, and change in and for me as well!
Change the World
In this process I’m not the only one who’s changed; I myself become one who changes this world. Lasting change in this world is not brought about primarily through the rich and famous. No, it’s the millions of “little world-changers” who will make the vital difference that will transform this wonderful world, the world that God created and that he loves!
What does that have to do with the nehemia team?
As in the past, we want to contribute even more in the future towards helping people to become more like Jesus and to find their place in this world, the place where they can use the gifts they‘ve been given in a way that makes a difference, and thus become true followers of Christ. Whoever follows him will be there, where he is. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)