We and Us
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” … They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
- from Nehemiah 2:17-18
We. Us. We. Us.
Nehemiah comes as an outsider to Jerusalem. He had a high-profile job in a safe place, back in Susa in the court of the king. If he wanted, he could ignore the trouble and disgrace in Jerusalem. But he didn’t.
We. Us. We. Us.
There’s a huge difference between “You’re in trouble” and “We’re in trouble.” The same goes for “You’re in disgrace” and “we’re in disgrace.” Nehemiah identifies with the people of Jerusalem. Their troubles have become his troubles. Their disgrace has become his disgrace.
Nehemiah’s willingness to identify with the people unleashes tremendous power. They don’t feel talked down to or disrespected. Nehemiah connects with them and this allows them all to move forward together.
Nehemiah’s “we’s” create space for the “us’s” in the passage. Can you see the difference between “Let us rebuild” and “You should rebuild”? The people respond with enthusiasm to Nehemiah’s call to rebuild and willingly follow his leadership. We believe that his willingness to connect with them was essential to their willingness to jump in and work alongside him.
“We” creates space for “us.” Radical identification enables radical partnership. Making meaningful connections with people is often the only way you can meaningfully help them.
Where have you benefitted from someone’s willingness to identify with you? Where have you blessed someone by identifying with them? Where might God be calling you to identify with someone today?