The What, When, and Why of Exhorting One Another
"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." — Hebrews 3:13
In this verse, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the church to be the church. That is, he is telling us something of what it means to live in a community with brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a responsibility that is laid upon all of us once we join the family of faith. Here we learn what it is, when we're to do it, and why it's so important.
The What of Exhorting One Another
First, the "what." The Greek word translated "exhort" (parakleite) is the word of strong encouragement. Maybe you recognize it from the word Paraclete, an older term referring to the Holy Spirit and referred to by Jesus as "the comforter" or "the helper" (John 14:16). This word is often used in secular Greek literature of the naval or military commander putting strength into his sailors or soldiers.
Thus, believers are expected to exercise a daily, cheering ministry to other Christians. We are not meant to be a burden: nitpicking at all the things we think people are doing wrong or could be doing better. We are not meant to sit in judgment over others either. We are called to be cheerleaders. We are to mimic those traits of the Holy Spirit and be a help and an encouragement.
The When of Exhorting One Another
In his commentary The Message of Hebrews, Raymond Brown writes,
It is never fitting for believers to adopt the depressing pessimistic outlook of a godless world. With God things can always be better, and Christians ought to be the first to say so. It is far from easy for many believers to live and witness effectively for Christ in contemporary society. Every Christian ought to be able to count on the cheering encouragement of his fellow believers. To make that possible, every member of the body of Christ should grasp opportunities in every day to speak the uplifting word and do the supportive thing for his Christian partners in Christ. (p. 88)
Did you notice how often we are meant to do this? Every single day. That's the "when." There is no statute of limitations on being an encouragement. Each day think of someone who might need a supportive word—perhaps a note, a visit, a phone call. Don't wait then. Do it. Satan never stops his attempts to discourage the people of God; therefore, we should never stop in our work of comforting and encouraging and exhorting.
The Why of Exhorting One Another
Finally, "why" is this such a crucial task? The author of Hebrews says that without this constant encouragement, we are prone to the "hardness of the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13). Without the encouraging word of the gospel preached to us every single day from within and from without, we are likely to instead believe the lie of the devil. We will become discouraged and calloused to biblical truth. We will build walls with Satan's lies that block out the light of Christ. It is our God-given calling as Christians to keep our brothers and sisters from falling into this darkness. Indeed, even the act of looking outside of ourselves to help others is one of the main ways we prevent ourselves from stumbling and slipping.
Consider today, dear friends, in what ways you may be able to fulfill this calling of yours to be a comforter and a helper to your fellow saints. In Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes,
God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged…the Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. (p. 23)
May we all seek to present this certain Christ to others every single day.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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