Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Responsibility of Provoking Others

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

A spur is not a gentle suggestion. The author didn’t say, “Let’s consider how we may nudge one another or egg each other on.” He said “spur.”

We associate spurs with the cowboys of the Old West. Their spurs were a means of motivation. They didn’t hate their horses. They just wanted to get the most out of them. They wanted to get the best out of them.

So, why would the author of Hebrews apply the verb “spur” to human beings? Sometimes we get stuck. Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to throw the covers over your head and wallow in self pity just a little bit longer? Does a loving spouse tuck us in or pull the covers back and tell us to get up and get over it? Which option sounds like a spur?

What about the friends in your life who are stuck on the same issue? You have had the same conversation with them over and over again. It’s like Groundhog Day. Do you patiently listen once again or do you tell them, “I love you, but it’s time to move past this.” Which is a spur?

Some translations use words like “provoke” or “stir up” or “incite.” These are powerful words. The church today has become rather meek in comparison to these words. But, I’m not sure that “meek” is an accurate description.

We have actually become apathetic toward our fellow believers. We have enough of our own stuff to deal with. Why would we enter the danger with someone else? Well, because we’re called to.

The instances where I have avoided bringing something up to someone had more to do with not wanting to make me uncomfortable rather than not wanting to make them uncomfortable. In these situations, I simply loved myself more than I loved the other person. This is not right or appropriate in the body of Christ.

While I don’t think this passage gives us license just to go out and tell everybody off, it does spur us toward helping the people that we are in relationship with see things about themselves that they are completely blind to. What is so obvious to me is hidden from the other person and vice versa. They need my perspective, and I need theirs.

So, how do we spur one another on without it backfiring? Well, we don’t necessarily get that guarantee. But, here are a couple of things I would suggest before we strap on our spurs:

1. How well do I know this person and their situation?

2. Do I understand the cause of their behavior? This is not to make an excuse, but to give context.

3. How have I built into this person’s life? How well have I helped and encouraged them so far?

4. Have I prayed about how to address the situation?

5. Am I eager to lower the boom or am I reluctant? If you’re eager, then repeat #4. If you’re reluctant, then most likely you are ready.

If we know someone well and have a good relationship with them, what’s holding us back from spurring them on? Maybe we don’t want to rock the boat. Some boats need to be rocked. Maybe we don’t want to experience the discomfort. Maybe we don’t want to risk losing the relationship. Both of these are selfish reasons.

If there is someone in your life that you are reluctant to confront, I would encourage you to read all of Matthew 18, not just the “church discipline” part. Your spurring on another believer could very well win them over.

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