And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… (NIV). All followers of Christ Jesus need to grasp the core of this responsibility. What is the how of stirring others in your local gathering toward love and good works?
Consider first the general concept. To “spur on” means “to provoke” or “to stir up”. The word used “has a startling sound. Christians are to be roused, provoked, but to love” (Westcott). It seems strange that those who have received God’s love should need to be provoked to love others. But this is a sad fact stemming from the sin that still hinders us. We become lazy at best, and more often self-absorbed and unkind. Something must be done. The NIV translation is picturesque. You can see the rider in the Old West urging his horse on with his spurs. So every one of us has times when we need to be spurred on, some more often, some less. But this is one of the many “one another” encouragements that we need to grow in grace.
Here comes a difficult action. This involves changing from a self-centered to an one another-centered view of the church, which is a gathering of Christ-followers. We simply cannot live godly in Christ Jesus without this mutual action of stirring up each other. Yet too often professing Christians approach a church with a crass materialistic concept. “What can I or my family get out of this church?” This is not something that has happened only recently. Listen to these words from Postmodern Times, by Gene Veith, Jr. and written in 1994. “Christians, like everyone else in today’s economy, are consumers, but they dare not apply consumer values to God. Notice the implications of the phrase ‘church shopping’. Surely, shopping for a church in the same way we shop for a major appliance is dangerous. Instead of looking for a church that teaches the Word of God, we sometimes look for a church that ‘fills our needs.’ The church does not exist to provide its members ‘services’; rather, it should challenge its members to engage in ‘service’ to God and to their fellow human beings. When we think like consumers, we put ourselves first, picking and choosing what best corresponds to our desires” (p. 118-119). To me, that sounds like exploiting or plundering a church. Where is the love of Christ in such an attitude? Whatever happened to “what can I contribute?” or “how can I help?” and especially, “How can I serve God and one another?” To say this another way, the true Christian is not only concerned about his own salvation, but also about the salvation of others (cf. 3:12-13).
But let us move on from general observations to specific applications. Here are ten examples of people who need to be spurred on (listed in alphabetical order)
- Disabled – those who are physically challenged or shut in or sick
- Disadvantaged – those with a previous lack of correct teaching (Some think that because they heard an effective communicator that they heard good teaching. But truth is a matter of substance not style.)
- Disagreeable – those who seem determined to object to something
- Discarded – those who are no longer welcome in their former place of worship through no fault of their own
- Discontented – those who are not content in their present situation (because they don’t like their job, etc.)
- Discouraged – those who are losing hope in their situation
- Dismayed – those who have fallen into depression, spiritual or otherwise
- Disorderly – those who are not obeying the will of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Disregarded – those who people pay little attention to
- Dissident – those who disagree with the opinion of the majority
I think you will have little problem finding people like this that would benefit from your personal concern and love for them. We have only to open our hearts and eyes to see them.
Are we ready to minister to one another? To serve, we need a servant’s heart, an attitude like Jesus Christ, the Servant of the Lord. Read Philippians 2:1-11. I’m sure you have seen offices—each worker shut up in his or her tiny cubicle. Most people in our postmodern culture have a “cubicle attitude” toward life. They move from one tiny cubicle to another, avoiding contact with other humans as much as possible. Are we willing to reach out of our small life cubicles and interact with other people? This will require a profound change of attitude, but it must be done if we are to fulfill this directive from the Holy Spirit: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… (NIV).
Grace and peace, David