Which one is the real world?
Jim and I were discussing a church staff member’s honest lament about receiving little affirmation for his work. Jim’s reply was, “I don’t know why he’s complaining about a lack of affirmation. In the real world of business, you don’t expect affirmation from people. You just keep doing your job!”
Jim was a businessman who compared the staff member’s church life to the “real world” of business. From Jim’s point of view, the staff person served in the “not-so-real” world of the church, while Jim lived in the real world of business. I walked away from the conversation asking myself, So which is it, which one is the real world?
The real world is the world of the Kingdom. After all, Jesus exhorted us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). What is life in the Kingdom like? In the Kingdom, the apostle Paul says this is the expectation: “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). It's almost as if Paul is describing a race to see who can honor others the most! This is what life in the Kingdom, the real world, is like.
Life in the Kingdom is an affirmation-rich zone, not an affirmation-free zone. It’s true that we can become obsessive about seeking praise and honor for ourselves. The apostle knows this and focuses the command on honoring others and not calling attention to ourselves. Solomon exhorts us to do the following: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2a). It’s easy for me to spot the errors of others rather than looking for the good. Outdoing one another in showing honor means practicing a love that “rejoices with the truth” and “believes all things” in other people (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). Kingdom living creates an affirmation-rich zone.
I’m learning to live in an affirmation-rich zone by being specific in expressing appreciation. This means moving from “I appreciate you” to “I appreciate you because. . . . ” Affirmation is also enhanced by good timing. When a parent affirms a son or daughter in front of another adult, it lifts the heart of a child. Affirmation is naturally God-centered. Some God-centered statements are, “I appreciate how God has made you to be . . . ” and “God has used you in my life by your . . . ” Giving affirmation is like being an honor-detective, diligently looking for clues to give appreciation and affirmation to others.
A life well-lived happens in the real world of God’s Kingdom, a place where God reigns. His reign is an affirmation-rich culture, not an affirmation-free zone. Living life well with God is one that races to outdo others in showing honor.
Who in your world needs to hear a word of affirmation? A church staff member? Possibly a spouse, son, or daughter? What's your plan?