I love The Letter to the Hebrews, when I thought about doing a Master’s in Biblical Studies; I was going to study Hebrews, James, and 1 & 2 Peter. I find that Hebrews has a lot of important information, which we seem to forget about.
This section starts out with a warning and exhortation. It is a message for today; do not have a heart that turns away from God. What a simple, yet complex warning. The author is pretty much saying do not do what comes natural to you. It is a request to turn away from sin and self-will. In the next verse the author exhorts us to encourage each other every day as long as it is called ‘today.’ So every day we should encourage each other to follow after God. But why should we encourage each other every day? “So that none of you may be hardened by deceitfulness of sin,” encouraging is a two way street. The person receiving encouragement gets a timely word from a friend, loved one, or from God, reminding them who they really are. But the encourager also is blessed, because he/she gets to speak the truth into someone’s life and gets to brighten the day of someone else. I am Brother Barnabas in the Company of Jesus, the encourager. I know first-hand, when I encourage someone or pray for them and they are encouraged, blesses me to know that I am living out God’s calling in my life. So the encouraged gets to be lead out of the deceitfulness of sin, but so the encourager.
The author is also calling us to have a fresh faith at all times (how that sounds really evangelical, sorry). We should have the same confidence in our choice of Christ, when we have been Christians for 20 or 30 years, as we did the day we converted. This is a tall order, because it is very easy to become complacent in our faith with time. This is why the author’s exhortation to encourage each other every day, so we can keep up that new faith feel. The problem is that after a while we start to turn away from God, we stop listening for his voice and after a while it becomes much harder to hear it. Sin clouds our mind and our hearts and we start believing the lies of the enemy and forget the promises of God. However, through the church community we can be reminded of what God says to each of us and reminded of how to listen for his voice and not harden our hearts. This is one reason the church community is so important, because we constantly need others to build us up and encourage us. Christians who want to be an island or who want to limit their interaction with the church to Sundays are going have a much harder time, than those who want to be part of a community within the church. The early church held all things in common; this is one way of building community. We can also think of the church building as a community space, this is another way to build community; however, we should be careful to not make the church building a community center/gym/daycare/coffee shop instead of a house of worship. I am not saying that worship cannot take place in the midst of a coffee shop or gym or something like that. But we should not be going to the church to go to the gym or the coffee shop, we should be going to the church for worship and community, and while we are there for those purposes we can seek physical fitness or friendship through a gym or coffee shop at the church.
Question: Who have you encouraged lately? Have you been encouraged by a Christian brother or sister lately? Who is God calling you to encourage today?