Yesterday I shared the first two ways in which we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). The first was to live it, to be an example. The second was to give it, to show love to one another. Today I want to share two more ways we can do that.
Create the atmosphere for it. We do that by being committed to stamp out judging one another and slandering one another. When we don’t do that pride and fear run rampant in gossip, backbiting, envy, and fighting; where that happens there is no trust, no safe place for people to bear their secret sins and private pain. Instead instruct one another in the truth of the Gospel and how to live for God through Christ by being humble, gentle, and full of grace and truth. When we are sinned against, be quick to forgive one another. Where people are burdened with pain, trials, or trouble, bear with one another.
I heard a great example of this this past week. Many of you know I have a friend who has been struggling to recover from a brutal attack in her youth. She has struggled to face and open up about how much she hurts from it even though 16 years have gone by. In her group therapy she finally came to the place where she felt safe enough to show her pain and her loss. One of her cheeks is a prosthetic that she has to put on every day. She removed it in front of them. The best part was how the group responded with tears and hugs of compassion, love, support, and encouragement. That could not have happened where judgment was feared or slander was tolerated. O that we might have such an atmosphere in our homes and churches, where people feel such grace and mercy and love that they are willing to let their burdens come into the healing light of God’s love!
Encourage it. Pride is easy, humility is hard. Anyone can get angry, it takes effort to be gentle. Grace it seems is much harder to give than judgment. And slander and speaking against one another often wins out over speaking the truth in love. Because it is hard, because we fail and fall down, because we knock others down (intentionally and unintentionally), we need to encourage one another, to spur, entice, and motivate one another toward love and good deeds.
We need to encourage one another because the world is always going to be worldly. I am again reminded of my Fenelon:
Don’t allow yourself to be upset by what people are saying about you. Let the world talk. All you need to be concerned about is doing the will of God. As for what people want, you can’t please everybody, and it isn’t worth the effort. One quiet moment in the presence of God will more than repay you for every bit of slander that will ever be leveled against you. You must learn to love other people without expecting any friendship from them at all. People tend to be quite fickle. They love us and leave us, they go and come. They shift from one position to another like a kite in the wind, or like a feather in the breeze. Let them do as they will. Just be sure that you see only God in them. They could do nothing to you without His permission. So, in the end, it is He that tests or blesses us, using them as we have need.
And we need encouragement because as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 (NIV),
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Peter tells us that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NIV). Daily the Accuser motivates us against living a life of love and good deeds, he temps us away from giving love to one another, and he entices us to create an atmosphere where pride and fear stamp out humility and gentleness, and judgment and slander trump grace and truth. We need to encourage one another by becoming familiar with his schemes, by coming to one another’s aid when we fall prey to them, and by encouraging one another that in Christ we can stand against him.
We entice one another on toward love and good deeds by living it in front of one another, by giving it to one another, by creating the atmosphere for it to flourish between one another, and by encouraging one another as we do.
We are saved by God’s grace, which produces faith in Christ in us, which produces love for God in us, which creates in us love for one another that is seen in how we live, work, play, and worship together, as these “one anothering” passages we have been looking at this summer have shown. Faith, theology, Christianity is living for God through Christ. Knowing the hope that we have, that Christ’s sacrifice has already perfected us who are being made holy, how can we live any other way?