And they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire."
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days...
(Nehemiah 1:3-4a ESV)
Principles of Leadership from Nehemiah #1
The principle of identification: the leader identifies with the people he is serving.
Nehemiah mourned the humiliation of his ancestral home, the “city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2). “These are my people, my ancestors, my home…” Even though he probably had never been to Jerusalem before, he felt the humiliation of being a part of the chastened people of God.
Good leadership begins with feeling – we identify with the people to whom we are sent (or to whom we belong). Jesus left heaven to embrace our humanity and our humiliation. He too wept over the same city that Nehemiah did, mourning the future devastation of Jerusalem (Luke 19:21). He shed tears for his friend Lazarus taken in death (John 11:35).
We share humanity with all others created in the image of God. We too are in the body and share suffering in this world, with those who are our neighbors. We share a common identity and name with our kindred in families and nations.
Yet, greater than this, we share with all other believers our fellowship in Christ. They are united to the same Savior as we are, and we all are part of his one body: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
We too live to see the building up of the people of God from lowliness until the day that they will inhabit the glorious City of God, the New Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
So, godly leadership in the church, and in the home, begins with our identification with the people of God, seeing them as “my people”, sharing in their needs and destiny. As a Christian parent I begin my parenting task by remembering my children’s needs, their high calling, their humble frame, and our shared destiny in God’s kingdom. I begin with compassion for where they are, but I view them in faith as mature adults in the glory of God’s family.
So before Nehemiah prays, and before he plans, and before he does anything, he feels. He shares in the suffering of his people. Good principle for us to follow.
Photo above: Jewish men praying at the western wall in Jerusalem.