Preachers, today, don’t want to talk about sin and its devastating consequences, and congregations don’t want to hear about it. Nevertheless, like death, just because we try to ignore it doesn’t make it go away or any less real. When sin is left unchecked—even the supposed “little” ones—it eventually ruins. Like and old weathered and rotted fence, it will eventually break leaving the property vulnerable.
For example (and I’m sure many of us can relate to some of these), multiple explosions of anger eventually ruin a relationship between friends or relatives. Continual seemingly innocent flirtations finally lead to an affair, ruining marriages. The banding with bad company does corrupt good morals. Continual pride or lack of grace finally turns persons off from the gospel because they see no love of Christ in a person. And the list goes on. None of these are exaggerations but are very real. I can almost guarantee if you’ve not experienced one of these personally, you know of someone who has.
Churches are not immune. How many churches have been completely shamed and devastated because of a minister’s infidelity or greed? Still, how many churches have no genuine spiritual vitality, all because of the condoning of sin(s)? Oh sure, they might have food drives and so forth, but they are completely barren as far as spiritual vitality goes. The walls are broken down, and the people are left vulnerable, ravished, and hardened.
We read in Nehemiah, in his own words,
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, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ~ Nehemiah 1:3-4
Let us not think this was simply an immediate response on Nehemiah’s part and he was over it in five minutes. In his commentary on Nehemiah (in the ESV Expository Commentary series), W. Brian Auker notes “the prayer that follows summarizes what Nehemiah prays over several months.” Today, we see the damaging effects of sin all around us, from Washington all the way down to our homes and personal lives. All around us are broken people within broken down walls. Tragically, too many preachers and authors are saying with sympathetic smiles, “It’s all okay. You’re okay. God loves you. This wreckage is not your fault.” But the fact of the matter, sometimes it is—as it was of the Jews of old. Our sins have consequences, and sometimes the results are extremely horrible and painful. To treat persons as though everything is okay is not only to dismiss the problem, but it’s also to openly lie to them and make light of the reality of the consequences of sin, whether it’s our sin or the sins of others.
Understand, my point is not to throw people’s sins and consequences in their faces. Rather, I want to ask you—especially if you’re a preacher—a question: When was the last time you wept over the broken walls? When was the last time you wept over persons who once walked with the Lord but who are now entangled in sinful living? Or wept with a family whose child has overdosed? Or wept over your town or city gripped with drug and alcohol addictions, immorality, and domestic or gang violence?
Am I crossing a line when I say many preachers are too busy growing their churches and youth programs to notice the broken walls around them? Do I speak erroneously when I say many of us have been hurt enough times, we don’t feel much of anything? And am I mistaken when I say many churches are oblivious to many of the broken walls, because they don’t view sin as being destructive? Instead, they want to blame all the ills on society and others? But tell me, if our hearts are not broken because of the broken walls, will we really be stirred to positive action? If we don’t feel anything, if we are not moved with compassion, are we really going to pray? Tony Evans writes in his Bible commentary,
“Broken people cannot fix broken walls. This raises the question: is prayer the first thing or the last thing that you do when you see that something is broken? If it’s the last thing, then you waste time in everything you do that leaves God out of the equation to fix it. Far too often, we allow other things to push prayer aside rather than allowing prayer to push other things aside.”
E. M. Bounds notes, “The world needs more true praying to save it from the reign and ruin of Satan.” But how will we truly pray unless we’re truly moved? And how will we be moved unless the Holy Spirit does a deep work within us? May God prick our consciences, break our hearts, and help us to weep over the broken walls around us! But even in this, we must be willing to yield, repent, and declare, “God, Your will be done!”
Perhaps it’s been a while since we’ve wept because of the broken walls. Let us confess our sins and callousness, and let’s ask that God will restore a genuine fervor for lives to be restored by His truly amazing power and grace.