October 14, 2001
¡Kand edify one another, even as also ye do.
Out of ancient Greek history we find the king of Sparta boasting to a visiting monarch about the mighty walls of Sparta. The guest looked around, but he saw no walls. I¡¦d like to see those walls. Show them to me! The Spartan ruler pointed with great satisfaction to some disciplined and well-trained troops, part of Sparta¡¦s mighty army, and exclaimed, There they are! Those are the walls of Sparta!
The point is well made that each man¡¦s devotion and discipline to Sparta was a brick in that invisible wall.
The church is also a building in progress. Jesus is building His church one person, or one Christian brick, at a time. Paul gave the imagery of us as God¡¦s building:
¡Kbuilt upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together
groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 2:20b-22
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
Bill and his Aunt Caroline were at odds with each other. Bill was jealous because Caroline was the number one society leader in town. Caroline was jealous because Bill got more money when the family fortune had been distributed at the reading of the last will. Bill had received 100 million dollars. Caroline had only received 50 million. (Poor baby!)
Until the mid 1890¡¦s, Bill and Caroline¡¦s dispute was confined to childish, snide remarks at high social gatherings. But then the warfare intensified and became much more visible. In fact, it became the talk of the entire city.
You see, Bill and his Aunt Caroline lived right next door to each other. All that separated them was a beautiful and spacious garden. Caroline¡¦s splendid 4-story house was easily the nicer of the 2 dwellings. This galled Bill. He had more money - he should have the nicer home.
So Bill tore down his house and built a beautiful 13 story hotel in its place as his home. This hotel would be the most elegant in the nation - and most importantly, it would dwarf Aunt Caroline¡¦s puny house next to it. On March 14, 1893, Bill¡¦s hotel was completed - and it, of course, was named after him.
For a while it appeared that Bill had triumphed over his Aunt Caroline - that is until her construction began. One day, Bill came home to find her house torn down. And in its place, an hotel began to be erected - bigger than Bill¡¦s, with more rooms, more baths, and more stories.
Bill was incensed - and he immediately announced his plans to add on to his hotel, making it taller than his Aunt Caroline¡¦s. Of course, Bill and Caroline¡¦s childish game was the talk of the city. And how far it might have progressed we will never know ¡V for, happily, for all concerned, Bill¡¦s hotel manager showed more maturity and wisdom than Bill or Caroline did. He began a process of mediation between the 2 warring family members. After all, he reasoned they were family. And they were making fools of themselves before a whole city. Couldn¡¦t they possibly work out an equitable agreement?
Bill and Caroline finally accepted his compromise. The two hotels would be joined physically. They would operate as one. And Bill and Caroline would share the profits equally. Instead of squandering their fortunes on childish rivalries, they both could become even richer.
The suggestion worked - and who can even count how many people have enjoyed the luxuries of that hotel that remains in use even to this day in New York City. The hotel that was a combination of buildings built by Bill Waldorf and his Aunt Caroline Astor - known today as the Waldorf-Astoria. (1)
To "edify" means to build up. At the center of Paul¡¦s message to the church is that we are not to tear each other apart like Aunt Caroline and Bill ¡V our mission is to build each other up.
Paul is calling for strong Christian relationships. The importance of relationships between believers is vital...
THE IMPORTANCE OF STRONG CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIPS
The church¡¦s destiny is to spend eternity in the presence of God. When Jesus rose from the dead, he went back to heaven to prepare a place for His bride, the church. The Bible tells us He is coming back for us. There will come a time when the Father will say, Son, go get your bride.
Those who are part of His glorious church ought to live like it; we need to practice being in His presence! We need to practice what we will be doing together in heaven for eternity.
One of the ways we do that is to help each other. This builds the kind of unity to strengthen relationships ¡V which is the reason for which we were created!
God¡¦s whole purpose for mankind is relationship ¡V a fellowship, a joining together. That fellowship between man and God was broken because of sin. God is holy, and He will not have anything to do with sin.
But God does love us, so He sent His Son, Jesus to bridge that sin-gap. Jesus built the bridge with some nails and a few pieces of wood erected at Golgotha, the town garbage dump! How important is relationship-building to God? Important enough to die-for!
The point was illustrated in the Boston Marathon a few years ago. This footrace is 26 miles long. One of the infamous points on that grueling course is "Heartbreak Hill." Thousands of cheering spectators gather there to watch.
During the race a young man was very near total collapse; no one thought he¡¦d make it up ol¡¦ Heartbreak. About half way up an older man, in better shape, came alongside the younger man, put his arm around him, and spoke quietly to him. Together, step by step, they painstakingly made their way up the hill.
Life is like that hill. Many Christians are weary and worn by this life. Edifying ¡V building-up by Christian brothers is the only hope some of us have!
When Handel¡¦s great oratorio, The Messiah was published, one nobleman complimented the composer on the entertainment that he had given the town. My lord, said Handel, I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better. (2)
That is the importance of strong Christian relationships ¡V that we make each other better as believers, as people, as citizens; that we make each other stronger in Christ ¡V able to endure the Heartbreak Hills of this life. Consider¡K
THE IMPACT OF STRONG CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHPS
I do not know what attracted you to the Christian life, but for me it was helped along by the real friendship I saw in Mr. Redden, Mr. Edwards, and others. Their willingness to get along and serve together in the little church we attended in my youth, was such an attractive witness. I believe one harsh word of criticism or gossip in the family of God does more damage than hundreds of flaws in our doctrines.
There will be a lot of "Soulwinner¡¦s Crowns" in heaven that nobody would¡¦ve dreamed possible. Those who demonstrated Christian graciousness and gentleness will fill heaven¡¦s "Evangelism Hall of Fame" when we get home.
There is no better opportunity for any adult to impact this world, than to develop strong Christian relationships with and through their children.
A survey was taken among parents. The point was to record the negative and positive statements they made to their children in the course of a day. The result was that for every single positive statement made, parents also averaged 10 negative ones. (3)
In a Florida city, teachers were found to be negative in their communication 75% of the time. This in light of the knowledge that it takes 4 positive statements to overcome the effect of one negative statement.
How can you make positive statements? Much more with what you do than say. But, what you say is also important.
In We Are Still Married, Garrison Keillor writes:
The town ball club was the Lake Wobegon Schroeders, so named because the starting nine were brothers, sons of E. J. Schroeder.
E. J. was ticked off if a boy hit a bad pitch. He¡¦d spit and curse and rail at him. And if a son hit a homerun, E. J. would say, "Blind man coulda hit that one. Your gramma coulda put the wood on that one.
If a guy couldn¡¦t hit that one out, there¡¦d be something wrong with him, I¡¦d say.
Wind practically took that one out of here, didn¡¦t even need to hit it much"¡Xand lean over and spit.
So his sons could never please him, and if they did, he forgot about it. Once, against Freeport, his oldest boy, Edwin Jim, Jr., turned and ran to the centerfield fence for a long, long, long fly ball. He threw his glove forty feet in the air to snag the ball and caught the ball and glove. When he turned toward the dugout to see if his dad had seen it, E. J. was on his feet clapping, but when he saw the boy look to him, he immediately pretended he was swatting mosquitoes. The batter was called out, the third out. Jim ran back to the bench and stood by his dad. E. J. sat chewing in silence and finally said, "I saw a man in Superior, Wisconsin, do that a long time ago. But he did it at
night, and the ball was hit a lot harder." (4)
Strong Christian character can be built in young people when older Christians act like Christ died for everyone.
The impact of strong Christian relationships on society as a whole, is a matter of faith. Right now it looks like our nation has slipped and fallen away from Christian principles. However, America can change.
Dr. Tony Evans is a well-known preacher from Dallas. He founded The Urban Alternative, a ministry with a mission to change the inner cities of America. Dr. Evans holds that changing our society is to be done the way Jesus did it ¡V one person at a time. He contends that
„Y a strengthened father in one family will make that a
better family. It will strengthen other fathers
to strengthen their families.
„Y Strengthened families will build stronger
„Y Stronger communities will build stronger states,
„Y which will build stronger unions of states,
„Y which will strengthen the world.
Society can change. It can start with one person!
Iron sharpeneth iron;
so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
If we care about this nation it must be turned back to righteousness. That won¡¦t happen quickly. It will take years, generations (if the Lord tarries) of faithful edifying, building-up of strong Christian relationships.
A man visited a church service. It was his first time there. It was one of those mornings when the soloist, a tenor, must not have gotten out of bed on the right side.
As the newcomer listened to the faltering voice, he looked around. People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist.
By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn. And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range.
And by the fourth verse, it was beautiful. And on the fifth verse the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life. That is life in the [real] body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us. (5)
In many churches across the land, we would have easily settled for sitting in dreadful silence ¡V except for the drowning tenor. And in the afternoon, cooked tenor.
Perhaps for the sake of our nation, our church, our families, our Lord, we must stop criticizing and complaining, and begin edifying -- building up our land, our leaders, our church, and our children.
Strong Christian relationships are at stake. Paul built-up young Timothy in the faith so as to become a strong pastor. Where did Paul learn that? Barnabas had done it with Paul.
We should follow their example ¡V follow the leader ¡V edify one another, build ¡¥em up!
(1) Larry Rowlands, Edifying The Body,
(2) C. H. Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton:
Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
(3) Institute of Family Relations, (As reprinted in
Homemade, September, 1991)
(4) Garrison Keillor, We Are Still Married (Penguin,
(5) John H. Unger, Brandon, Manitoba, Leadership, vol