“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)
My cheeks burned scarlet as my eyes darted to the clock overhead — 30 more minutes before I could escape. Did she really just say that to me?
I was “stuck” in the nursery again, but since I was scheduled to volunteer with one of my best friends, I actually looked forward to spending the time in an all-out gripe session. After all, if anyone felt my pain, surely she did.
However, after I spewed some rather uncharitable remarks about the overall lack of volunteerism in our church, she shocked me with a totally unexpected response. Her words landed on me like a thousand bee stings: “Perhaps if you can’t serve joyfully, then maybe you shouldn’t serve at all.” Ouch!
Wait, I can’t honestly share my grievances with my best friend without receiving a sermon? Really? I am here, aren’t I?
Not only did she fail to sympathize with me, but she also had the nerve to give me unwelcomed and unappreciated advice. One afternoon, my negative feelings became impossible to ignore — why did this make me so angry? My dearest friend wasn't rude; her tone wasn't condescending or belittling, so what was the problem? Suddenly, I realized her suggestion had hit a nerve — the problem was with me.
The book of Hebrews repeatedly charges Christians to exhort and encourage others who are in the household of faith. In great detail, the author unfolds the role of relationships among believers, which includes spurring on others in the family of God to lead lives that please and honor Him. Hebrews 3:13 cites that one way to do this is through encouragement: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”
Typically, when I think about encouragement, what comes to mind is a cheerful pep talk or words that make me feel warm and fuzzy. While those are forms of encouragement, the writer of Hebrews addresses another form, one that speaks the truth out of love and concern for a fellow believer. It’s our duty to prayerfully admonish and counsel one another when we see sin creeping in, not only for the integrity of the believer’s heart but also for the purity of the body of believers as a whole. Sometimes, the words we really need to hear may offend us and be painful to digest, which is probably the reason this verse is nestled in a series of passages warning believers not to sin out of hardness of heart or prideful stubbornness.
Healthy Christian relationships serve to lovingly steer us back to the righteous path when our hearts stray. Just as good parents address attitudes and behaviors that could lead to their child's destruction, we are to take similar action with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Sure, genuine love for each other includes “warm and fuzzy” words. But it also calls for truth, and truth is not always easy to deliver, especially when it’s likely to upset or offend someone when it reveals a sinful, wayward heart. No one enjoys being told the “hard truth” about oneself.
Nevertheless, we need Christian friends who will speak up when our lives look more like the world than Jesus. In fact, we should thank the Lord for them and ask Him to help us be that same kind of friend.
Now, I pray that whenever one of my sisters in Christ is brave enough to speak truth, my immediate response will be one of gratitude instead of resentment. I honestly want my ears to listen and my heart to be open when receiving wise counsel and sincere caution from godly friends and family when I need spiritual guidance and instruction.
In obedience to our heavenly Father, let’s be a body of believers who speak the truth in love to one another, holding each other accountable for attitudes and actions that turn us away from the Lord. On the day of Christ’s return, may we be found faithful “while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13, NIV).
Heavenly Father, thank You for placing people in my life who are not afraid to engage in difficult conversations that turn me away from my sin and bring me back to You. Help me to examine my heart daily, seeking to serve the family of God out of sincere love for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (NIV)
These days, we are bombarded with information. Who can we trust when we have questions? And does having questions make us bad Christians? The audience of the book of Hebrews was not much different than us. They, too, had questions about their faith. Join our next First 5 study, When I Don't Know What To Believe: Why Jesus Is the Answer, starting June 7 in the First 5 app! Discover why Jesus really is the answer when you have questions about what you believe. Order your study guide today!
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Think of a time when a well-meaning friend spoke hard-to-hear truth into your life. Did you meet her words with appreciation or resentment? We'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Laura Bailey. All rights reserved.
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