Years ago my uncle had a small fishbowl with a Beta fish and a plant growing on top. He said it was a symbiotic relationship where they both benefit from the environment. When I studied up on symbiotic relationships, I found that there were four types. The first type is parasitism where one side benefits from the relationship (the parasite) while the other side is affected negatively. The second type is commensalism where one side benefits, but the other side is not harmed. The third type is amensalism where one side is not affected by the relationship, but the other side suffers because of the harmful, chemical compounds released by the first. The last type of symbiotic relationship is mutualism where both sides benefit from the relationship. All four of these exist in nature, but they also exist in our churches.
Ever since the Early Church began, it was designed to be a mutualism symbiotic relationship. The Greek word used was Koinonia which referred to community, fellowship and joint participation where people shared what they had with each other. Because people are involved in church, it got derailed and is often derailed to this day. Church does not exist to feed you believe it or not. When I hear the phrase, “I’m just not get fed there,” it’s usually coming from someone who approaches church as a parasitism symbiotic relationship. They want to be fed without contributing. When they feel they aren’t being fed, they either leave or create a amensalism relationship where they try to harm the pastor or other. As James 3:10 put it, these things ought not to be.
Ephesians 4 talks a lot about the Church and the relationships. It gives the responsibilities of the five fold ministries, but it also gives the parishioners their’s too. Verse 16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). Jesus puts us together in Koinonian fellowship, but if we don’t do our part in the relationship, the body isn’t healthy or growing. Each of us have the responsibility in our own church to make the body healthy. Your church should be better because you’re in it with the gifts God has given you. If you’re not contributing to your local body with a mutualism approach, you fall into one of the other types of symbiotic relationships that is not beneficial to the Church and are not doing what God requires of you. If you find you’re in one of the other types, reach out to your pastor this week to find out where they think you can be most beneficial to that body of believers.
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.
One of the most powerful things on earth is the tongue. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death are in it. The words you choose to say to someone can make or break their day and even their life. According to a study done by the University of Arizona, the average person speaks about 16,000 words a day. How many of those words are we being intentional about? How many times do we say something in passing or jokingly that could hurt someone? The more we speak, the greater the chances are that we become less intentional about what we say. More than that, a UCLA study showed that 93% of communication is nonverbal. So beyond what we’re saying, how we’re nonverbally communicating it to someone is more important when it comes to how they receive it.
Several years ago in Israel, I was touring Jesus’ hometown of a Nazareth. The guide there shared that while Joseph taught Jesus to be a carpenter, that word had a broader meaning back then. It wasn’t just wood that a carpenter would have worked with. They would have also worked with stones. 1 Peter 2:5 says you and I are living stones being built up into a spiritual house. Think about what he’s saying with the context that Jesus would be a stone carpenter. Also think about how buildings were built out of stone back then versus wood today. You are a building block of God’s Kingdom that Jesus is shaping and placing in just the right place. Now think of how you and I are to be Christlike in building each other up. We are stone carpenters ourselves.
Jude 1:20-21 says, “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love” (NLT). Each of us have a divine command to built each other up. We must use words, prayer and the Bible to encourage one another and build each other up. If we’re constantly putting others down, we’re in essence trying to undo the work that Jesus is trying to do in their lives. We are partners with Him in this, so let’s work together with Him in building up the lives of those around us. Pray each day asking the Holy Spirit to give you the right words to say to build up others when they need it most. You might just speak life into someone and save their life.
I grew up as the middle child of three boys. Like most siblings we fought over insignificant things and argued over just about anything. We often tried to get each other in trouble by tattling. Many times we would instigate arguments between the other two just to watch them fight. Like most siblings, we were competitive and were always trying to outdo each other. We had the same parents, but we had three very distinct personalities. As we matured, the fighting and arguing stopped. We learned to get along and how to help each other out. Even though we sometimes have disagreements, we don’t allow those to be reasons to separate us. We recognize those are personal choices and don’t try to force each other to live by each other’s personal rules.
Romans 14 has a lot to say about similar things. We as individuals and corporate bodies of churches often fight with each other over things like siblings. We find reasons to argue with each other even though we serve the same God. Instead of working together, the way a body should, we find problems with each other’s choices and doctrines that don’t line up with our own. Paul says those are signs of immaturity. Why are we fighting with each other trying to prove who’s right or better? We’re on the same side. When we look for differences, we’ll find them and be divided. We know that a house divided can’t stand, nor can it accomplish its great commission.
Paul encourages us in verse 19 by saying, “So then, make it your top priority to live a life of peace with harmony in your relationships, eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another” (TPT). The foot is not more right than a hand because it walks instead of grabs. An eye is not greater than an ear because it sees rather than hears. We have differences because there are strengths in our differences. Let’s quit firing our weapons at each other, look for each other’s strengths and work together so that all may know Him. We must live in peace and harmony with each other as believers. The best way to do that is to seek to help, strengthen and encourage each other in the work God has called each of us to.
If your spirit has ever been broken, you know how hard it is to get through the day. It’s hard to even wake up, let alone face people. Worry consumes your mind. You question everyone’s intentions, and your energy gets depleted. It’s tough to be stuck in that phase. If you’ve ever been through it, then you can empathize with others who are going through it. They need your support and encouragement more than your advice in those times.
Proverbs 15:13 says, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (MSG). When you see someone whose spirit has been crushed and they’re struggling to make it through the day, offer words that will encourage them to continue going. Chances are that it was words that put them in that state and its our words that can bring them out of it. If only we had the courage to speak them.
If you’ve ever watched an action movie, chances are that there is a scene where one person is hanging off a cliff or the side of a building and another person grabs them with one arm. They then use all their strength to pull that person back to safety. That’s what our words have the power to do. They can pull back someone who has been pushed over the edge and is barely hanging on. We have the power and strength to save someone’s life simply by encouraging them.
I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up” (NLT). Paul’s words are a reminder to us as Christians that we are to constantly be encouraging, strengthening, edifying, and building each other up. We are to find a way to a cheerful heart. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing” (AMP). You can help heal someone’s brokenness today if only you will open your mouth to offer encouragement instead of correction or direction. You have the power, use it.