We Can All Solve This Problem
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but wit the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
One year at summer camp, I was talking with a group of campers who were about to be seniors in high school. This was their last year of camp. All were somewhat nervous as well as excited about finishing high school and heading off to college. Many of them were serious about their Christian faith, which was a good thing. And several expressed concern that when they went off to college, if they weren’t interested in the party scene, how might they occupy themselves on a Friday night? Who could they talk to? I answered, somewhat casually, “Why not talk to the people here? You’re all nervous about confronting the same problem. Can you see how you can solve this problem?”
It is always interesting when a group of people all agree on a problem, and all see the solution. The issue here was people expressing the identical concern with having someone to talk to on a Friday night. And the answer was found in that same circle of people—how about each other? (It kind of reminds me of a time I gather with a bunch of Christian young adults who were complaining, “Where will we ever find nice Christian people to date?” And the answer was, “Just look around the room.”)
If we all agree that something is a problem, and we all agree that we have a solution, why can’t we do it?
I think most people would agree that they like being encouraged and lifted up. Most people would probably like to have more encouragement in their lives. Everyone is capable of offering encouragement. So the answer is, if this is something everyone wants and something everyone can do, then why aren’t we doing more of it?
On the same note, if everyone is looking for places where it is safe to be honest, if this is a concern for most people, then why aren’t more people making sure there are safe spaces to talk?
The Scripture verses from I Corinthians talk about leaven. Leaven is a substance that makes dough rise. Centuries ago, people made bread by creating yeast, making dough, and then taking some of the leaven off of the dough and saving it for another day, so it could be used as the yeast for more bread. Leaven could last for years, shared from loaf to loaf. If the leaven were ever exhausted, more would have to be made. Only a little leaven is needed to make a loaf of bread. That’s why a little leaven can be removed from the dough of a loaf of bread and be introduced into other dough.
We need some new leaven in our society, and that leaven is encouragement. It needs to be taken from relationship to relationship, from high school to college, to adulthood, to different friendship groups, to different cities, to different life circumstances. It needs to be kneaded into marriages and passed on to children. It needs to be found in workplaces and in churches, on sports teams, and in organizations. Perhaps it might even make its way into politics and other places of hostility.
If we all (or at least most of us) think the world needs more encouragement, then we each hold part of the solution, in our minds, in our mouths and in our mannerisms. Look around the room, or the house, or the office—we all need more encouragement. We can all give more encouragement. We are the solution to the problem we all face.
So, as Saint Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:6-8, let us not move forward “with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” And let us lead the way there with encouragement, to build up one another rather than tear one another down. No one likes to be torn down. Everyone likes to be built up. So let’s stop the destroying and start the building up. Let’s destroy the destructive habit of discouragement and build up one another with encouragement, encouragement that is purposeful, sincere, and consistent. We need to change the leaven of our society, from anger and rage, to encouragement which will increase overall confidence and joy.
Lord, help me to be an encourager. Kindle in me the desire to encourage others, and to provide a safe space for others to talk.
Surround me with people that will build me up, especially at times when I feel down. Help me to develop a good group of friends who share a love of You, who can help me love You even more.
Help me to always see people who need encouragement and to be generous in giving encouragement to others. Amen.
We all have the same problem. We can all share in the same solution. Everyone needs more encouragement. Everyone can be more encouraging. Let’s not stand around bemoaning a problem we can all fix. Let’s go fix it.
**Dedicated to Artemis Xenick, Mia Lenardos and Kristina Hixson**