By Leigh Tolton
In 1996, The Journal of Group Work published a paper proving the actual healing benefits of love in a group of hurting people. They found that the people in groups that experience authentic support and authentic acceptance are the healthiest, the best able to handle stress and the least likely to be subject to long term major depression and stress-related illnesses. On top of that, these group members reach their personal goals more easily and feel better about life when tough times hit. Love heals. Love edifies.
For example, when a child is in a traumatic situation, sometimes an allele on a gene breaks or shortens due to stress. Nothing can heal that fractured or shortened gene, we used to think. But now research shows that some PTSD in children can be healed with structure, love, and 2 support. These alleles can actually straighten back out and begin to extend once again. If it can happen for kids, we know it might happen for adults. While the miracles that are talked about in the Bible are too rare to count on, the healing that comes with love in a group of God’s loving people is definitely scientifically dependable. The kingdom of God is a place of grace and love, where people are their best selves they can be – not because of personal perfection but because of the assistance of one another in this journey.
Christians are supposed to be the conduits for this love – so that we love ourselves and others in this kingdom of God by the restorative and redemptive powers of love. The Bible tells us repeatedly that we are best when we love others as we love ourselves. Our love adds to or edifies other people’s lives. Like it lengthens the gene on the allele for a child, love helps us to reach our better selves and to be the best we can be.
There is a little joke that might help illustrate this. Bent over and obviously in pain, the old man with a cane hobbled laboriously through the sanctuary and into the pastor’s office while the choir was practicing.
Ten minutes later he came out, walking upright and moving with grace and speed.
“Good gracious,” the choir director exclaimed. “Did the pastor heal you by faith?”
“No,” the old man said with a smile. “He just gave me a cane that wasn’t six inches too short!”
I would argue that that was the most tangible way the pastor could have helped the man – through edification.
We are supposed to be edifying, helping each other do things we aren’t typically able to do. Life so many times gives us short sticks. As members of the body of Christ we are supposed to help each other to 4 reach goals in life, to pray through problems, to hold each other in the Light, to help each other where we have short comings, and to remove barriers that keep us from reaching goals. Think about what it is like at the Habitat building site. Do you hand things up to one another? Someone is on the ladder and someone is on the ground. And you hand things up, right? Do you help run wires? Do you share tools? This is a cooperative way of being and working. I’ve never been to that Habitat House and I know this because I know you. You guys help each other.
And in the long run, heal by faith, and by love, and by goodness to one another. This church, this meeting, can provide a circle of healing for each other, and provide a place of spiritual growth and renewal for each other. We are supposed to as church do three things – be here to worship God, be here for each other, and be there for the world, and this meeting does a wonderful job of these things.
The purpose of church is, yes, to worship God, but worshipping God is the purpose of life itself. From the time we wake up, until we go to sleep, if we stay in an attitude of worship, our minds and bodies actually work much better, heal better, are less depressed, have lower stress chemicals, have more normal immune responses, and regenerate at a better rate. I get that it is distracting to be around people who all the time “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” It can feel a bit superficial as well.
But if instead, from the time of the first breath in the morning until the last exhale before sleep we were aware of God’s presence and honored it, wouldn’t life seem better, deeper, full of awareness and meaning? So a meetinghouse isn’t the only place for worship.
But our second job as church is to one another. In this job we are to be edifying. To lift each other up to the point where we can reach the Godlike things in life.
Simon Schrock, a Mennonite author, wrote in a book titled One Anothering all about our need to be there for one another. Julie is going to read a few paragraphs from his book.
“ Believers are given spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph 4:11-12 NIV).
The ability to build, comes from the gifts of God’s Spirit. To be an upbuilder, one must allow God’s Spirit to work through his life. If you feel you should be more of a builder, let God know your desire…You can use these gifts to edify others, as Paul did. Paul wrote, “But we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.” (1 Corinthians 12:19).
There are many areas where your building gifts can be used… Build up one another in becoming an active part of the local church. Build respect and support for the leaders God chose for the church…Personally and compassionately share yourself for construction of the body of Christ.
Build on a personal basis. Be a friend by hearing and sharing the hurts, fears, and frustrations of individuals. Be available to the rejected and those outside the “circle.” Build them up by being a personal friend.
Schrock gives us queries and we will use one of them today to think about edification and our church:
What would your church be like if you would take edifying seriously?
But first let’s unlock things a few things we are doing right. I mentioned last year when we went through all of those terrible losses so close to each other that in a meeting where people don’t lie, aren’t gossips, and who are honest with each other about their faults, people get closer and losses are felt more deeply. What you have here is authentic community, and in today’s society it is rare. But it is also edifying. It’s also what a church is supposed to be about. It might be a little scary to other people who have not been in such a church before.
I know it was scary to me at times, but mostly I just miss it. I always wished that a church like this existed. But I thought it was like finding a unicorn.
So while we look at these queries, don’t miss what we already do right here. I have often said that since we are God’s adopted children, we sometimes come with pre-existing illnesses, so don’t blame yourself for any old wounds or places that keep us distant from other people. That might just be a part of who you are. Don’t change it or hide it. Let yourself be yourself.
Consider what you do to help each other, encourage each other, and be there for each other. Hearten those in this meeting.
I get kidded a lot by my husband about the archaic speech of the south. I will say a word or two and he will ask me what in the world that means. But when we encourage, when we edify, when we build up, we hearten people – we make it easier for their lives to feel strong and for them to be able to be better able to do self care for themselves and to also be there for others. Heartening one another.
Begin with your most inward circle – yourself. What can you do to edify your spiritual self? Then slowly work out without neglecting yourself. What can you do to be of more encouragement to those closest to you, then work out from there, at work, in your play, in your leisure, in your neighborhood. As the healing works itself outward, form better bonds with one another and be supportive of one another.
We can’t change how society is right now. It is overwhelmingly looming with problems. But we also can’t just give up either. Until all is said and done, let us be supportive and encouraging of one another, in the Lord.