17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They[a] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment[b] stained by the flesh.
Building Yourself Up
Selfish. That’s how it sounds: selfish. Aren’t we meant to build others up? Aren’t we meant to build up the Kingdom of God? Why would we build ourselves up? Doesn’t this whole passage seem narcissistic and self-centered. To many Christians who have struggled with a dominant parent or friend who told them to stop being selfish, these ideas seem alien. Any thoughts of self are to be diminished. In my case, my father would call me selfish when his needs weren’t being met. In some cases I was too young to meet his needs, in other cases he would ask me to do things that were beyond my capability. His lack of self worth and fear that something would be his fault resulted in anger and condemnation toward others. So, as I grew up I thought it was normal to try and not develop myself and to think of myself, with no resources to draw upon in myself I was then expected to sacrifice myself for others. I talk to students who can not say that they even accept themselves, let alone build into themselves. Some shame stops them because they were not told they are accepted enough outside of performance. People in their present feed the shame by making them a scapegoat for their own need to control and dominate. People who have a poor view of self too often connect themselves to people who have an inflated view of self. In both cases the self is not built up. A childish, stunted self tries to be an adult and compensates by withdrawing into a corner or dominating everyone in the room so that no-one can get close.
The adult builds themselves up in the most holy faith. They learn about God with eagerness, and feeding on the word of God develops faith which rides through storms and is not easily shaken. The Holy Spirit guides our prayer when we are dependent on Him for what to say. The relationship cultivated through the prayerful conversation keeps us in our love relationship with God. Reflecting on His mercy and grace develops an attitude of gratitude. I am grateful for iron sharpens iron relationships with friends and students. I am grateful that a student has come in and wants to chat with me now. God is using these times to build me up and I hope he builds me up in the conversation.