Our home owner’s association board administrates a Facebook group to facilitate interactions such as locating lost pet owners, suggesting alternate travel routes when accidents or inclement weather block the way, and voicing concerns common to any neighborhood of 1200+ homes. Even in such a restricted group, where names are posted along with comments, kindness and respect are missing from many posts and responses.
One person shares a concern and is flamed by others who see that problem as so trivial it requires no attention. The phrase “talk about your first-world problems” is bandied about as the argument-stopper. Many of the highlighted and oft-repeated discussions are triggered by instances of irresponsible behavior and unneighborly attitudes. Here are some light-hearted examples:
- I’ll mow my lawn when the frost kills the weeds so I can find the mower.
- Sure my dogs bark anytime at anything and everyone. Dogs do that.
- Clean up my dog’s BM landmine? Seriously? That is pure fertilizer and good for the environment. Next time just don’t step in it. Or stay off the public sidewalk.
- Speed limit 25? That only applies to school busses and older drivers. I find 50 is more my style. Besides, I’m late.
Trolls wait at their screens ready to rise up and pounce like the ogres from a fairy tale. While no one is actually eaten, the language and the intentionally hurtful comments pulverize the poster. And that’s behavior observed in a relatively civilized neighborhood.
Do the comments and the general downward trend of civility on Facebook concern you? Or have you grown accustomed to the bloodshed? If my news feed is a reliable indicator our society is becoming one where courtesy and kindness have taken a backseat to caustic language, abuse, and even hate.
And many of us belong to our choice of church. Oh, man, religion is another topic of discussion where a “kill-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out” mentality runs rampant on social media. My question to the Jesus-followers is this, “Did Jesus call us to demolition or to construction?”
Are we to build something, or is the mandate to tear down those facets of society with which we do not agree?
Saul, the man who would become the legendary Apostle Paul, motivated by hatred and a sense of God’s justice, embarked on a mission to destroy anyone who named the name of Christ. Those Jesus people represented a threat to Saul’s religion, Judaism. In an ironic twist Saul became a follower of Jesus and invested the remainder of his life sharing the Good News of salvation with everyone he met, Jews and Gentiles, those who listened as well as those who attempted to exterminate him.
Paul authored much of the Christian New Testament, and one of his favorite themes is building. In various versions of Scripture the word might be translated as build, edify, edifying, or edification. What does it mean? Picture a vacant lot that someone transforms into a beautiful home with a manicured lawn. That person had a vision of what might be and set out to follow a process to erect that home. Planning, designing, hard work, skill, finances, and patience all played a part in achieving the end result.
In spiritual terms build means to value another person and consider him important enough to invest in his growth in Christian wisdom, happiness, and holiness. That process requires patience, hard work, sacrifice, a can-do attitude, and all of it must be wrapped in love.
Paul gave the Thessalonians a great summary verse of the overall mission of building others and tied it to the practice of encouragement. This is a command, not a suggestion.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
That’s the big idea, but how does it play out practically? How do I make the building of others part of my life style? Consider these five key behaviors.
I use words with the right flavor.
Whether I am speaking or posting to social media I must choose my words wisely and use them to help, encourage, lift up, and praise the other person. This does not mean ignoring situations where admonition is called for or giving up my responsibility for standing up for right. But I speak in love with words that do not drag me into the world’s gutter stream of profane speech.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Jesus warned us that words begin as thoughts.
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. Matthew 15:18
Take time to cool down and consider responses. Sometimes silence is the best sentence I can speak or type.
I value others.
Saul worked hard destroying Christians but Paul worked harder building them up. His motivation reflected his view that each person crossing our path is an opportunity given by God. Paul understood his accountability for relating to that person as God would.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9
In 2 Corinthians 10:8 and 13:10 Paul described his apostleship to be a position God had given him for the purpose of building up not tearing down. Paul shared with the Corinthians that his actions had one purpose (1 Corinthians 2:19), “…but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.”
I understand that each of us has a place.
Whether in the home, church, office or nation each of us has place where we can contribute, a spot where we fit. And each position is unique, designed for the person whose personality and gift set fit that spot.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
For the whole to function as it should each part must contribute.
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
I consider my actions from the other person’s point of view.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul wrote that “…not all things edify.” In the early churches factions squabbled over how a Jew becomes a Christian, which traveling evangelist was the best speaker, whether it was OK to eat meat used in idol sacrifices, and which spiritual gifts and abilities were the most important. Proponents for every position stood ready to die for the cause. Paul urged believers to take a different path.
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
I may not agree with the other person’s point of view but do I love him enough to accommodate his eccentricities and beliefs?
I use my resources and talents to minister good to others.
Jesus followers should stand out in this me-centered world. Not in a “those people are strange” sort of way but in our understanding we are here to make things better for others. Paul taught that spiritual abilities, gifts, talents, and resources were given so that the possessor might use them to benefit others. Christianity was never intended to be a popularity contest or a competition to see whose mega-church or platform is the biggest. The abilities are given (Ephesians 4:12) to equip the saints and build up the body of Christ.
But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
1 Corinthians 14:3
So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12
There’s been enough tearing down. It’s time to grab the tools and do some building.
Who’s with me?