encouraging one another in our faith

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

The word translated “encourage” in the NIV might better be translated “exhort” (as in the NRSV) except for the fact that we don’t use that word today. “Warn” (NLT) fits the context, yet might be too strong. And there’s another Greek word which means to warn or instruct. Perhaps a good rendering might be to “strongly encourage.” (See Bill Mounce to consider that word in the New Testament transliterated parakaleo.)

The book of Hebrews was not written to us, but is definitely for us. It was for a group of either Jewish believers, or believers who as Gentiles had previously been God-fearers in Judaism, now under pressure, being persecuted for their faith (at least the beginnings of it), and tempted to go back to Judaism. But no one should think they are signed, sealed and delivered, as to their faith. We need according to the text, daily encouragement, mutual encouragement in our faith (Romans), but also some pointed loving words, to help us stay on track. When we see faith in others which encourages us, we should let them know, so that they might be encouraged by what we see.

The nature of scripture is– what had application for others, now has application for us. We have to consider the writings in their original context, but we must look at it in our setting, circumstances, and situation of life, as well. There has to be a measure of contextualization. But in that process, we have to be careful not to think that their needs were different than ours. At the heart of it, the need is the same. Wherever we find ourselves, or more precisely in this context, others, we need to take this seriously, and apply it to our lives. We need each other in Jesus to help us along, especially through the most difficult and potentially dangerous times. To not turn back, or drift away, but go on in Jesus toward full maturity in him. To the very end.

love listens

In the midst of the debates happening surrounding Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”, there is a theme which resonates with me and should speak to everyone on both, or every side. Love listens, and seeks to really hear what the other is saying. And in doing this, love seeks to put the best construction on it. Without necessarily agreeing with it, of course.

Often skepticism precedes really listening and hearing. But worse than skepticism, we can rush to conclusions. Failing to really contextualize what the other is saying. And worst of all, we close the door to any conversation with them. A conversation which might help them, as well as us in sorting out what is important, and what’s not as important.

Listening involves asking questions for clarification, and trying to think through critically, hopefully with the other, just what they are saying. Charges of heresy have been leveled by some toward Rob Bell’s book, some even dismissing him as a heretic. While others, who mostly don’t agree with everything, or his conclusions in the book, do not make such charges. This becomes a matter of judgment. He wrote a book, and he can’t erase that. One has to weigh in their judgment, any merits as well as demerits, or liabilities of the book. And listen to what others say on this, as well as converse with others, in trying to understand, and arrive to a position.

While this happens to be a hot issue at present, I use it to consider across the board in life, just where I need to listen better, which most likely is everywhere. In love. Really beginning to hear and understand what another, and others are saying. Hearing their heart, as well as their thoughts.

And above all, listening so as to really begin to hear God in everything. What I hear may not at all match what I imagine, at least not in the way I end up hearing it. But I need to be open to what God may be wanting to tell me. And maybe even through a book, with all of its weaknesses. While at the same time, being willing in love to ask questions, and form the best judgment one can.