An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. ~ Newton’s First Law of Motion
Nothing we look down upon in the life of another is completely absent within ourselves. So then, when we judge the other, what we’re really judging are the tendencies within ourselves that we despise the most. In the same way, what we lift up in the life of another is also a reflection of the best within ourselves.
I never realized how many blue Honda Accords there are on the road until we started driving one ourselves. It’s as if the mind and the eye are subconsciously reaching out for what they know; noticing things familiar to them both. Once you drive a blue Honda, all you see on the road are other blue Hondas. The same is true of things like shoes and glasses. Once an object enters your sphere of awareness, you begin to notice it everywhere.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, Paul imports this concept into the way we interact with each other as children of the same Heavenly Father. He writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It’s an exercise in instruction and example at the same time. First, Paul teaches his community to notice and compliment what’s right with one another, and then immediately notices and compliments what’s right with them; “just as in fact you are doing.”
Joy of that sort tends to snowball. It builds upon itself and compounds as the Spirit uses each individual within the community to enable the others to see the best of what God is doing within them; which in turn shapes what each one actually sees in the lives of others. Paul’s not just talking about behavior modification here. He’s talking about seeing with new eyes.
This trend, compounding upon itself, is what shapes the culture of any community. It particularly shapes the culture of a Christian community, where longevity coupled with the mosaic of souls from different backgrounds, with different experiences, and who carry with them different baggage all come together to form the collective consciousness of the Holy Church.
How we interact with the people around us in community says more about the way we view ourselves than it does the character and capabilities of the people we’re in community with. If all we see are blue Hondas, chances pretty good we may drive one ourselves.
I wonder what would happen if all of us made a point to look for what’s right with one another. If we made a collective effort to build each other up with an encouraging word, a quick text, maybe a small card. You won’t just be looking for what’s beautiful in the life of the other, you’ll be training your mind and your spirit to look for what God is doing right with you as well. Across time and space, our prayer for joyful community is always the same. May the loving Spirit of the living God fill us with encouraging words for each other, and within ourselves; that by His grace we may live and breathe within a culture of mutual grace and compassionate peace…
About the Author
Josh Hatcher is a devoted husband and father, hopeless wonder-junkie, and Senior Pastor of Historic Trinity Lutheran Church – an open and caring, radically Christ-centered, deeply sacramental and sometimes eclectic ministry in the heart of the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis.