It Takes a Community to Exhort One Another
April 12, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Guest Writers
This past Sunday we listened to the warning of the author of Hebrews about the weakness of the human heart and the strength of sin. It’s a somber and humbling warning about our situation. But the author does not leave us without hope. He also speaks about how the power of the gospel rescues us from the dire consequences of a hardened heart.
One of the avenues that God extends the power of the gospel to his people is through the command, “Exhort one another every day.” The church community is one of God’s means of grace to guard his people from the “deceitfulness of sin.” I didn’t have time on Sunday to explore the implications of this command for our church community. Let’s do that here.
What does the command, “Exhort one another every day,” say about church community, our church community?
- Humble recognition that we are all on equal ground: needy. The purpose of the command comes later in the verse: “that none of you may be hardened.” The implication behind this statement is that we all are susceptible to falling prey to the deceitfulness of sin. No one is exempt. No one is one above the weakness of heart that can stumble. We are all weak and needy. Therefore, the command to exhort one another is not a call to arrogant, condescending judgment of others’ weaknesses.
The Greek word for “exhort” is parakaleo. It is the same root word that Jesus uses to speak about the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, “[The Father] will give you another Helper (paraklete).” So “parakaleo” carries an idea of “help” or encourage or comfort. That impacts how we understand the command “exhort.” There is a care and a love and a concern for the other behind the exhortation because we understand the desperate need. The more we understand and are humbled by our sin and need, the better equipped we are to “exhort” (help, encourage, comfort) others.
- There are regular, normal, every-day relationships among church members. The command is for “every day.” Not just Sundays when we gather for worship. Not just at small group, whatever day that may be. Every day. This implies that the members of the church community have relationships with one another that bring them in contact with each other on a daily basis. We must acknowledge that this is not common. Individualism trumps community. Self-sufficiency trumps humble dependence on others. But to fulfill this command, we need to build relationships with others in our church community so that every day interactions become common place.
These type of relationships within the church community take intentionality. Life Groups, Bible studies, and other fellowship gatherings are designed to help facilitate opportunities to build these type of relationships. Each of us, however, need to take the initiative to connect with others. How are you doing in building relationships with other church members?
- The hope of Christ sprinkles the conversations of believers. What is the content of the exhortation? The implication throughout the letter of Hebrews is that the content is the hope of Christ. “Pay much closer attention to what we have heard [of Christ]” (2:1). “Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (3:1). “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest” (8:1). “Let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus” (12:1-2). Genuine, growing faith will treasure Christ and delight in growing in knowing Christ. Christ naturally becomes the centerpiece of our lives and hearts as we grow in faith. Then, the hope of Christ naturally is sprinkled throughout our conversations. We will not naturally speak of the hope of Christ unless Christ has captured the wonder of our hearts.