In middle school, every day during lunch a group of us would sit at the same table with one goal in mind, make someone cry. We would spend the entire hour doing put down contests. Two of us would face off and trade put downs until one of us cried or ran out of out downs. I learned to develop thick skin and to have quick retorts. The down side of that is that I spent decades putting people down not understanding the power of my words. Because I had developed thick skin, I assumed everyone had the ability to prevent words from affecting them long term. I later learned the power of the tongue and how important it was to build people up instead of tearing them down.
Paul was a person who underwent a transformation. He thought he was pleasing God by tearing down Christians, but had the Damascus Road experience where Jesus changed him. Later, God chose he and Barnabas to work together to build people up. Barnabas’ name actually means, “Son of Encouragement”. How cool is that? He lived up to his name through encouraging Paul and others to reach their potential through spiritual growth. We don’t hear a whole lot about him, but we know that for a season, the two of these men challenged each other and the Early Church together. Their goal was to win people to Christ and to lead believers into spiritual maturity through their words.
Our goal is no different. Romans 14:19 says, “So then, let us pursue [with enthusiasm] the things which make for peace and the building up of one another [things which lead to spiritual growth]” (AMP). What words do you use when speaking with others? Are they building them up or are they tearing them down? Are you contentious or are you a peacemaker? God’s Word is clear. The power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). We must choose our words carefully and use them to speak life and encourage growth. There are enough things in this world to bring division to us. Instead of focusing on those or letting them rule us, let’s look for commonalities and work to build each other up and unite ourselves together as one.