From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. – Nehemiah 4:16-18 (NIV)
Watchfulness can rarely be overrated. Being prepared for whatever may come is a valued trait in soldiers and police, but it is also incredibly important for community. Nehemiah knew that sometimes the best defense isn’t offense, it is vigilance. He put into place the means and the manner for his community to be safe and secure.
In each community there needs to be a sense of vigilance. There are enemies to every fellowship, family or congregation and they are waiting for apathy or infighting or corruption to set in. The problem with community is that we can get so internally focused that we forget about the world outside. We can become ignorant of the world’s allure and cruel intentions, or we can get an inflated view of ourselves in comparison to anyone outside our group. These do not build healthy communities.
There is a tension in being a safe community that is still welcoming to those who want to enter in; vigilance against ill will and in expressing good will. We need to look out for one another. We need each other. As a father, I need to be vigilant for my family, to watch for those things that may harm the ones I love, but I also need to be open to those who may enter into our community and lead with love. It is less about looking for a fight and all about being prepared when the fight comes to our doorstep.
Nehemiah wanted to get the wall built. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He just wanted his people to be safe and secure. Sounds like a good attitude for a father and a friend.
Lord, help me be vigilante to defend what I love and extend love to others. Give me the strength of heart and mind to be watchful over the communities you place me in. Amen.