I reviewed this book earlier this week, and although it doesn’t specifically apply to our month’s theme, Laity, the author does have some important things to say about what he calls “engaging with others.” To be successful as laypeople we must be able to get along and work well with one another. In any congregation there are differences: differences in background, education, ability, understanding and more. Sometimes these differences lead to conflict. When that happens, Gregory Spencer points to the 4th Chapter of Ephesians for a guide to “reframing” our outlook. Maybe you’ll find it helpful.
“An extended biblical passage that addresses “engaging with others” is Ephesians 4. Paul reminds his readers of what makes for a strong community. Overall we maintain unity by living peacefully (3) and fulfilling our various roles and callings (4-13). We do this by putting off the old self and putting on the new self (22-34, some obvious reframing here), feeding certain character qualities–humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love(2) industriousness (28), compassion and forgiveness(32) –and by starving sensual indulgence (17-19), extended anger, bitterness, brawling, slander and malice(31). I’m particularly taken with the admonitions to speak the truth in love (15,25) and to talk for the sake of building others up (29).”
This was a new book I picked up at my local library recently. It’s probably not for everybody, but I really enjoyed it. Subtitled How Words Transform Our Faith, the author deals with language and how the way we use it affects how we view ourselves, our relationships with others, and even our faith. For example, if you had a difficult childhood, do you choose to “frame” it with the language of bitterness or forgiveness? When you “frame” our relationship with God, do you choose words of love and gratitude, or judgement and failure? When you look back over your life story do you choose words of grace, or condemnation?
“We choose our frames, and then we live in them. They form the structure of our lives, the “home” we carry around, which includes the “windows” through which we see the world. Though words are not everything, the words we choose matter. We can be transformed by them. They affect our work and play, our faithful and unbelieving choices, our virtues and our vices.”
I’m a word person, and so I like to think words make a difference. Words are the way we think and the way we tell our stories. Calling an experience “disastrous” we make us think about it in a different way than labeling it “challenging.” As believers, we can choose to “reframe” situations by putting on the mind of Christ, seeing ourselves and others as imperfect and broken, but children of a God who loves and values them. We can choose to “reframe” our memories by believing that God was in control and working things for our good, even when it didn’t seem that way at the time.
This book is both thoughtful and thought provoking. It ends with some “reframing exercises and discussion questions. I would recommend it as a great read for a small group or book club.