What if we all strive to make everyone feel welcome in our lives? What if we truly dared to be open and transparent, how would that change us? How would the world see us? More importantly, how would that change the world? These are the questions I think about… but today, I want to focus on just one, what if we build others up with our words?
As a Christian, I know my actions will influence the way other people see Christ. Because when we dare to call ourselves followers of Christ other people believe us, regardless of our actions. However, it is our actions that people use to discern who is trustworthy, honest, fun, genuine, hardworking, generous, and empathetic. Just because I am a Christian does not mean all these things magically come to me.As a human I have a sin nature, a natural love for that which is sinful and displeasing to God. It takes hard work to develop the right habits and change my attitude to keep moving forward—but it can be done. People can and do change—regardless if you see—the way they live their lives.
So why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because our culture sees disrespect as a weapon to wield, to break down their opponents, using their shattered remains to build upon their foundation of confidence.
This a story answers that question:
Anna is five years old, running up the playground steps when she sees other kids playing a game of tag, she gets excited at the thought of being able to play with them and make friends (because when you’re 5 everyone you meet can be your friend)! She asks the boy who was it, lets call him Ron, if she can join. “You can join, but you have to be it first.” Anna quickly accepted the offer to play, as she was full of excitement and a new challenge. But her excitement soon turned into apprehension as Anna quickly realized that she was the only girl playing in this game of tag, and the other boys were a grade older and much quicker than she anticipated. They soon began to ridicule her calling her slowpoke, telling her she should just quit, and even suggesting that boys are better than girls. After a few minutes of not being able to catch anyone, Anna ran over to her mother crying and looking for comfort.
Today is the first day of high school for Ron. He’s been looking forward to this ever since he was in the 6th grade and after his reign on the playground as the most athletic 8th grader he was excited to move on. Although, part of his reign as the most athletic had to do with constantly belittling his peers and using coercive tactics, he thought nothing of it. But after a couple weeks of high school, Ron was sorely disappointed with the way things went. He was no longer the big man and his monopoly on athleticism had dissolved. There were a lot of other kids who were faster, stronger, and even smarter than Ron was; soon he found himself on the other end of the spectrum. In gym class he was bullied and pushed around, told he was stupid, slow, and worthless (much of the same things he spread in his middle school years). As a result he became bitter and hated school. He hated the prospect of learning, it was pointless wasn’t it? He didn’t want anything the hierarchy which he used to be on top of. He thought of suicide at times, struggling to cope with the bullying and the anxiety that it caused.
People told him college would be different, so he held out in hopes that it would be. It was, a bit. The difference was that some people had grown mature and made decisions to become successful. Not as many people were tearing each other apart trying to build themselves up. He met some particular people, in fact, who seemed to do quite the opposite. They were building people up. Ron will call this group of people his friends. After hanging around them so often, Ron found his anxiety disappear as he no longer feared being bullied or rendered socially inadequate. He became confident and open to new things and ideas. After about a year he asked one of the men, Jim, why they were all so different.
“Well” Jim said, “in short the reason I am different is because of someone I met many years ago. This man challenged me to look at my life and what I was living for. He asked me if I was satisfied with what I was doing—I wasn’t. He told me that someone had something better for me. He said that Jesus had something. An accepting love that would wash away all of my past failures.” Jim paused for a moment, looking down then over at Ron shaking his head as if he did not believe the words he was about to say, yet he was grinning ear to hear. “I didn’t believe him at first, so he invited me to his church; I went. After thinking about the message that was shared that Sunday morning—living a purpose filled life—I realized I didn’t have a reason to live.” He paused again as to reinforce the importance of the words he was saying. “Later that afternoon, I called the man who had invited me to church and asked him how to become saved and we prayed together right then and there on the phone.”
Jim looked up towards the sky, it was a bright sunny autumn day. The leaves were changing and a cool Michigan breeze rolled off the water. “That moment my life was changed.” With a brief look of confusion and interest Ron asked, “What do you mean your life was changed?”.
“Up until that moment my life was all about me. I did whatever it took to build myself up, it didn’t matter if I had to break other people down and humiliate them—it was all about me.” He looked down a little; you could hear the regret in his voice. “Because I found God and his love I was changed. I saw that when we were struggling in life we were called to build each other up, encourage one another, and help lift each others burdens. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.” -Ron accepted Christ as his savior that day.
What do you think? “Pfft… It’s just a story, life isn’t like that.” You’re right, this is just a story, the truth is, anything can happen. God can choose to work through us in many ways, ways beyond our wildest dreams! The question is are you living in a way that God would choose to use you? Either your life does look like this or it doesn’t. Either you routinely build others up with your words or you tear them down. Build others up. I can’t count the number of times I see people put down others in order to build themselves up and create some sense of security. It is sickening. What’s worse? How often this happens among Christians. People who claim to follow a loving God, yet are still breaking other people apart to build themselves up.
Do you build others up or do you tear them down? Are you known for your encouraging words, or do people laugh and expect your criticism? Do you dare to call yourself a Christ follower? Live like it and you might be surprised at just how much God does through you.
How could living differently change the world? What if every Christian lived to build others up and share Christ’s love?