Saturday, 06 June 2020 21:00

Something Has to Change and It Starts With Me

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The thumbnail and headline said enough. A stone-faced white cop resting his full body weight on the neck of a black man. This image, now burned in the minds of millions, captured an injustice I will never understand - a pain I will never feel.

I'm a white male. Born in Europe, raised on three continents, and now living in Minneapolis, the scene of the crime. 

Like so many, my initial response was horror followed by paralysis. Something must be done, but what? What can I do? 

As my city began to burn, I was reminded of Nehemiah - an exiled Jew living in the court of the Persian king. He had a good job, security, and privilege. His life was good, but his brother came to visit, and what he told Nehemiah changed everything. 

It says in Nehemiah 1:3: 

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

As I wrestled with my own sense of helplessness, I turned to Nehemiah's example. His life lays out a God-inspired road map for how we ought to respond to the crisis we are facing in our world. 

What can we learn from the life and response of Nehemiah? 

Stop and Listen 

We live in the age of instant reaction. In a matter of hours, the murder of George Floyd was a worldwide news story. The power of the internet enables information to travel at unfathomable speeds, and yet as quickly as something grabs our attention, we move on. 

We may "like" or "share" a story that moves us, but we rarely pause long enough to really understand it, let alone do something about it. 

As Nehemiah listened to the words of his brother, he was overcome by emotion. It says he "sat down and wept." What he heard disrupted his life. He didn’t just move on, but spent months fasting and praying. 

How should I respond to racism in America? 

By taking the time to listen. 

I've tried to listen, and I have tried to learn, and I have a long way to go. Also, I've tried to slow down and take the time to sit, and to steep myself in the emotions of the situation at hand. It’s not enough to feel ‘bad’ and then move on. Evil is not fixed by performance, but by sustained commitment at great personal cost, and it has to start with me.


Nehemiah was heartbroken and he began to pray. He said in verse 6, “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's family, have committed against you.”

This prayer reveals something crucial. Change begins with me. Nehemiah could've said, "I didn't destroy Jerusalem, this is not my fault." Instead, he repented. He recognized that we all have a part to play in promoting evil and perpetuating injustice. 

He didn’t ask for forgiveness in a detached, impersonal way. He asked God to forgive him and his father's family. 

The truth is, I have not educated myself enough. I have not spoken out enough. I have not reached out enough, and I have not done enough. I need to repent and so do you. 


Nehemiah didn't rush out to do something - first he prayed. Now, this wasn't a token, religious prayer. This was gut wrenching and anguish filled. 

Nehemiah knew that he alone could not solve the problem - and neither can any of us. The evil is too great and we are too weak. But Nehemiah knew God is enough. He prayed with a desperate heart, because it is God's power inhabiting the lives of His followers that brings about change in this world. 

After stopping, listening, and repenting, we need to pray hard! 


Finally, Nehemiah acted. It wasn't enough for him to listen, weep, and pray. At some point, he needed to act. Nehemiah asked his boss, the king, for the time and money to rebuild Jerusalem. He risked everything in doing so, including his life. 

Our black brothers and sisters don't just need our words or prayers - they need our actions. We need to act, and if it doesn't cost something, it won't make a difference. 

I have no idea what it is like to be threatened, marginalized, and abused because of the color of my skin. What I do know is that God is angry. He is calling you and me to stop and listen. Not to simply have a flash of emotion and then let it die. 

He is calling us to repent, to admit where we've participated in perpetuating injustice. Finally, we need to pray desperate prayers and then act. Start small, but do something. 

Ask God to reveal what He would have you do, and then take a step, and then another - and don't stop until all lives really do matter. 

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is the Director of Come&Live! and is the younger son of David and Jodi Pierce. Come&Live!’s vision is to create a worldwide mission community that will provoke and inspire Christian artists to use their God-given creativity to revolutionize the world for Jesus.
Instagram: @nzbenpierce
Twitter: @benalanpierce

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