Tuesday, January 08, 2013

More like Oscar the Grouch

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29, ESV
     I think it would be safe to say that the world, in all of its business and hustle, has become less of a friendly place.  The world's no Sesame Street.  Step out into the street singing a musical number and no one's going to join right in with harmony or even choreography. (Not that I have experience, mind you...)  However, we all need encouragement one way or another.  We aren't supposed to be stuck in such a degrading culture.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."   As Christians, we're supposed to encourage one another in our walk with Jesus, not tear each other down.  That's what this week's post is about:
"A real woman encourages and builds up those around her instead of criticizing and tearing them down."
"A real man doesn't put others down with his actions, attitude, words, or his strength.  But on the contrary, he affirms and builds others up."
     As you can see, the men's and women's points for this topic aren't too different.  There are certain things that vary between the two genders in this area, but Christians in general are always supposed to be an encouragement - not a discouragement - to others.  Even so, we'll still look at each separately.  For women, it can sometimes be easy to form tight groups that allow certain people in and keep certain people out.  These "cliques", as they're called, can often times exclude people whom Christ desires to be encouraged.  This can be a problem for many teens.  We like to spend time with our friends - that's great!  But sometimes Christ calls us to reach out to someone.  Someone who might be lonely and in need of a friend.  That's where - especially in the case of women - it's important to step out of your comfort zone and befriend someone in need.  Cliques can be one of the largest cripplers of a church body because they cause division.  People stay in a group that accepts them and over time each group pushes away, breaking up the Body of Christ.  This is where it is your job to be the encourager.  Don't let anything slip out of your mouth that puts someone down; only what builds them up as Ephesians 4:29 says.  Someone could be depending on you to bridge the gaps in the Body of Christ.

     We as men have a similar problem.  Instead of cliques, however, many times what can put others down is our own self.  As the text above states, we can put others down with our "actions, attitude, words, or [our] strength".  There are many people out there gifted by God with different capabilities or strengths, yet become prideful and want to put others down because of them.  Gifts (from God) are never given to us for our own gratification.  They are given so that we may honor God and share Him with others, which I and I'm sure many others struggle with.  The irony in this is that we - especially men - have a hard time surrendering our pride and using our gifts for God and not for us, which is exactly what we're called to do.  Encouragement isn't as easy as it may sound.  As you can quite easily see, each of us has something deep inside of us, ingrained by our culture, that doesn't want us to encourage.  But as Christians, especially us teens, it is essential for us to do hard things and do what our flesh doesn't want us to.  (Yep. That was a shameless plug for the Rebelution...)

     Encouragement is of unwavering importance to the Christian faith.  Without it churches fall apart and relationships are broken.  As Proverbs 15:4 states, "A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."