Take part in TGC’s Read the Bible initiative, where we’re encouraging Christians and churches to read together through God’s Word in a year.
Though Christians took different approaches to COVID-19 precautions, there were times when distancing, quarantine, and isolation left us all feeling lonely and lacking. When we or our friends and family took precautions, it kept us from community. Even going to the grocery store was a lonelier experience than it had been a few years ago. And though many precautions were good and necessary, they kept many of us from gathering with the church far longer than was good and necessary. Sadly, these lonely days were also divided ones. From political debates to theological disputes, ad hominem attacks have ruled our days.
Now pastors are exhorting and imploring members to come back—to get back into the rhythm of attendance, service, and fellowship with God’s family. We’re quoting Hebrews 10:24–25 again and again:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We’re quick to emphasize the command in verse 25, but we also need to see the command’s implication. The last two years have left many anemic of encouragement. From a distance, we’ve been good at stirring one another up, but it’s been for anything other than love and good works. And yet, as this passage indicates, God has designed gathering with the church as the means for godly support.
We’ve been good at stirring one another up, but it’s been for anything other than love and good works.
Stirring Up Strife?
In Hebrews 10, the author tells of the confidence we have in Christ. Jesus’s broken body and spilled blood have given us unhindered access to God, a living hope that’s not dependent on our own faithfulness but on his (vv. 19–23). Verse 24 gives us the third “let us” in as many verses. It’s a call for Christians to discern and take note of how to cultivate love and noble works that are commensurate with our Christian confession.
Yet often our public practice of these sacred values doesn’t match our personal profession. If you’re not convinced, scrolling social media for 10 minutes should suffice as a demonstration. We’re quick to take note of one another’s actions . . . just to tear those actions down under the pretense of assumed intentions. Through the disembodied comfort of the internet, we use our thumbs in one moment to bless our Lord and Father and in the next to send out a meticulously hunted-for video clip meant to denigrate those made in his likeness (cf. James 3:9). Friends, these things ought not to be.
Christ died to make his enemies his friends. How much more ought we sacrifice to make friends of our Christian brothers and sisters? In this fallen world, we’ll have differences of opinion, and strong ones at that (I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t!). But we must ask, How can we stir one another up to godliness when prone to do the opposite? The answer is found in the next verse.
Stirring Up Love and Good Works
The author of Hebrews tells us there’s a connection between embodied Christians who gather and encouraged Christians. Being together is a pathway to unity.
Often our public practice of these sacred values doesn’t match our personal profession. If you’re not convinced, scrolling social media for 10 minutes should suffice as a demonstration.
If it’s true that the last two years have left us lacking encouragement, then why don’t we go out of our way to get together and be godly encouragements to the fellow believers who are most within our reach?
Hebrews reminds us that this is a responsibility we have in view of Christ’s return. In his little book The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer reminds us that Jesus gave the world the right to judge our faith on “the basis of our observable love toward all Christians” (John 13:35). “This is the whole point,” he writes, “The world is going to judge whether Jesus has been sent by the Father on the basis of something that is open to observation.” The stakes are high.
The hope of Christ’s return is what human hearts long for. Christians should be people who are marked by our readiness to give that hope away in community “all the more as [we] see the Day drawing near.”
So, as we gaze on the path ahead of us, let’s remember the apologetic of love Jesus gave us, and let us labor to stir one another up in it. Let us meditate on the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things we see in our brothers and sisters (Phil. 4:8). And let us encourage one another in light of the pregnant, eternal hope we have in Christ’s return!