1 Thessalonians 5.11
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
“What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?”
It might seem like a rather innocuous question, but it’s one I ask people all the time. Before the pandemic it was one that I would drop on a crowded table at a dinner party, and now it is one that I offer up during Zoom sessions. And people have a hard time answering the question. That people struggle to answer the question points to two things: 1) We are (often) uncomfortable with speaking positively about ourselves and; 2) We live in a world filled with criticism which leaves little room for encouragement.
Right now, in the midst of a pandemic, on the other side of a vitriolic presidential election, it is essential to make more time to be present with others even though it is complicated by our current situation. Moreover, supporting others with our presence and our encouragement is crucial at a moment like this because so many of us derive our meaning and value through what we do and we no longer know who we are outside of what we do.
For me, personally, it’s been a joy (and somewhat overwhelming) to get on my computer every Sunday morning because so many of my closest friends are pastors. Therefore, when I scroll through Facebook and Twitter I am bombarded with all sorts of different churches and all sorts of different preachers. The joy comes in knowing that I get to experience other churches in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
And so, while preparing for my own online worship, I will take time each Sunday to scroll around on social media and listen for a few minutes to a number of different preachers and then I will send each of them a few sentences about what I enjoyed or appreciated or valued from their particular proclamation.
This has become an important habit of mine throughout the pandemic and it has been extremely disheartening to hear back from people who have received my encouragement with words like, “You’re the only person who has sent me anything positive about what I’ve been doing.”
I recognize that this is a particularly pastoral experience, but I can’t help but imagine how much this kind of environment is also present in those who live and work outside the church.
And it’s led me to wonder about what would happen if the countless laypeople and the countless pastors across the land gave time every day to the good work of building one another up particularly during a time such as this.
When St. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica he encouraged the people called church to encourage one another and build up each other. This was not simply a good community building exercise – it rests at the heart of what it means to be the body of Christ for one another and for the world. We, the church, are at our best when we are doing the work of complimenting one another so that we can begin to see ourselves the way God sees us!
So, this week, I encourage you to encourage someone else (or multiple people) – offer unsolicited compliments simply for the sake of the Gospel.
After all, one quick note of encouragement or compliment could be the difference that makes all the difference.