As most of you will know by now, the far end of our garden has known some radical ‘structural alteration’ in the last few weeks, indeed in a split second on the Saturday evening of our Harvest weekend. Whilst members of the family were sat watching Strictly, part of the wall, the brick arch, clothes line post, and various other parts of the raised flower bed which had been there for many years, came to a sudden and untimely end! In God’s providence the back lane was clear at the time, and there was no-one in the garden, so nobody was injured or worse. Insurance means that everything will soon be replaced and things can get back to normal.
At the time of writing builders had been engaged and so we hope the process to have the garden made safe again will soon be under way. What even those of us who know nothing about building do know, however, is that rebuilding work always takes longer than demolition. Foundations have to be laid, strong and firm. Care then has to be taken to lay the bricks, straight and even using the right consistency for the mortar. For every second it takes to knock something down, it will take hours, even days to build it back up.
As with so many things that happen to us in life, physical events illustrate spiritual truths. Building is often used as a metaphor for living the Christian life, and the Bible uses the picture in many different ways. In some places the church – the people for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died – are pictured as a building being built up around the cornerstone of the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. 1 Peter 2) In other places our individual Christian lives are pictured in the same way. 1 Corinthians 3 reminds us that the only foundation worth building our lives upon is the Lord Jesus Christ, but on top of that we are responsible for building our lives with the sort of materials that will survive on the Day of Judgement.
But in a whole host of other Bible verses we are reminded that we have a responsibility to build one another up. The word that the Scriptures often use in these texts is the word ‘edify’ or ‘edification’ – which simply means to build up. One of those passages is found at the end of Ephesians 3, a section of the Bible that speaks about how we speak! Verse 29 says “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer.” We are reminded that we are to use our tongues to build one another up rather than hurt and damage another person. Sadly, just as we can knock down a garden wall in a second, so a bitter, harsh or critical word, or a passing on a piece of gossip can destroy a person’s reputation or character, even the person themselves, in just a moment. The work of building other people up by encouragement, sympathy or showing we care takes much longer. As the last verse in that chapter reminds us, in doing that we are taking our example from God Himself, who has forgiven us in the Lord Jesus Christ.