“…encourage one another daily”
Mark Twain has been credited (or charged) with saying “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” If I look into my own heart, I have to admit that I too am sometimes bothered by what I do understand. The simple plain teaching of Scripture so often contradicts my life that I find myself bothered and forced to make irrational excuses to justify my disobedience.
Take the words at the top of this page for example. Here the author of Hebrews is giving a command to the people of God. In light of the challenges and trials associated with living the Christian life faithfully, he issues this order to help us along: “encourage one another daily.” It is neither complicated nor unreasonable.
If we were to break it down, we would see that these 4 words contain:
1. A clear command: Encourage. The word is neither foreign to our ears nor difficult to accomplish. Almost any kind word would qualify. He prescribes no set form or pattern to which this encouragement must comply. Great liberty is apparently allowed as to the manner in which we carry out this duty. Just encourage. Lift someone up, cheer them. Promote the welfare of another through some tangible medium of communication or activity. Encourage. Life is hard. The Christian life, lived well, is even harder. Therefore encourage.
2. A clear audience. The object of this command is very simple: “one another.” The author is telling Christians to encourage other Christians. The assumption is that there are believers whom you have access to in one way or another. This command was issued before modern communication technology was available. How much less of an excuse do we have today, when the opportunities to encourage another believer in Christ are almost unlimited due to postal services, telephones, computers and email. No doubt there is someone in your church who could use encouragement. Some missionary that could use a letter. A college student who wouldn’t mind some cookies. A shut in that would appreciate a visit or a call. A Pastor who might like to know you were actually listening. Encourage another Christian. Any Christian. Take your pick.
3. A clear frequency: Daily. The word is not complicated or obscure in the original. First century Christians would not have understood this differently than we do. It means every day. Once every 24 hours. Seven times a week. The context is not poetical and the language is not figurative. Encourage one another every single day. The words that follow this text make the point even more emphatic: “Encourage one another daily, while it is called Today.” The command means that every day, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep, I ought to encourage (at least) one other Christian.
This command, therefore, really could not be made more clear:
· Encourage another Christian.
· Encourage another Christian every single day.
Not rocket science. Pretty simple really. What’s not so simple is the answer to this question: Why don’t I do it? Why do I allow so many days to roll by without lifting my voice or directing my pen into the way of encouragement? I cannot claim this verse is too hard to understand. Like Mark Twain, maybe it is the very clarity of the command that bothers me so much. I squirm under the crushing weight of a clear and reasonable expectation from the Lord. How about you? Maybe it is just me.
I am making a plan to change this. That is, ultimately, what repentance is all about: changing. Repentance means making a plan to change some pattern of behavior from disobedience to obedience. I know a few Christians. I’m making a list. Does that seem too artificial? Too mechanical to qualify as obedience? Maybe it is somewhat artificial and mechanical. But I tend to think that mechanical obedience is safer than comfortable sin. And maybe, just maybe, this is the way we change.