Opposition...Good or Bad?

Solutions to any opposition can be found by looking at how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. If we're opposed to evil and have a "mind to work," we can overcome any opposition.

By Caryl W. Krueger

Categories: Nehemiah, New Year/Change

With the new school year and home life returning to more structure, you may be hearing phrases like "I can't," "He's mean," "It's too hard," "Not fair!," and even "Why should I?" One thing most kids are good at is resisting change of any kind (unless it's their idea). So, it's time to view and review the Old Testament story of Nehemiah.

At the beginning of this book, Nehemiah is one of the Jews who has been taken captive from his beloved Jerusalem which is in danger from many enemies. It is important that the surrounding wall of the city be rebuilt. But when Nehemiah wins his release from captivity and returns to Jerusalem, he finds the wall totally destroyed, leaving the city defenseless. He gathers workers from many sources: priests, members of other tribes, and a lot of inexperienced laborers. Suddenly, up pop two men who are greatly opposed to the project: Sanbalat and Tobiah. They seem to be motivated by jealousy and racial discrimination.

Now let's remember that opposition can be good or it can be bad. It's a question of motive. Is it a God-inspired activity? Does it benefit others? Does it result in good? Or, is it selfish? Is it something that hurts others? Is it based on greed? Does it involve human will as opposed to God's will? In family life, there can be opposition that harms and opposition that helps. Harmful opposition occurs when a youngster refuses to honor family rules, when he tries to control the actions of a sibling, or when a parent doesn't treat the children fairly. Away from home, there is harmful opposition when a coach favors certain players, when a teacher ignores a parental request concerning a bully, when good ideas are ignored because they take effort, and when a student gives up too easily.

Solutions to any opposition can be found by looking at how Nehemiah handled the problem with Sanbalat and Tobiah. Their motive was an evil one: they did not want the protective wall to be finished; they wanted to intimidate the builders and let the wall return to ruins. But Nehemiah was convinced that his calling was to save the embattled children of Israel. It took his prayers to convince many of the builders to leave their other profitable activities to help him. Eventually, Nehemiah was able to describe the men as having "a mind to work." In fact, they were so dedicated that they worked with just one hand and held a weapon in the other!

So prayer for righteous activity to triumph and then having a "mind" to do what is needed are good first steps in resolving opposition. However, Sanbalat became more cunning and suggested that the work stop in order to hold a meeting to discuss the completion of the building project. But Nehemiah refused the cease-work offer four times, stating that he was "doing a great work and cannot come down." Here is another helpful step: not to "come down" to the level of the opposition, not to compromise.

Next, Sanbalat produces a false report that Nehemiah is building the wall so he can be king of the Jews. In response to these lies, Nehemiah states the truth and prays that the workers' hands be strengthened. (Nehemiah later puts his brother Hanani in charge of Jerusalem because he is a "faithful man and fears God.") So, another step is not to be intimidated by lies. In fact, one can often just ignore the lies and not even take time to argue back!

Nehemiah's example can be useful. In a family argument, pray first, then set an example of goodness, refuse to come down to the level of evil, and suggest solutions instead. As builders of home life, you can pray for (and expect!) the wonderful cooperation that Nehemiah enjoyed from his builders. In unfair situations outside the home, we can base our opposition first on prayer, and then on not engaging in lies but in the truth about what is beneficial to all.

We are all wall builders with great work to do, free from harmful opposition. Let us be opposed to every subtle form of evil (no matter how attractive it may seem). Let us have a "mind to work" and build strong families and communities.