It is a common misconception among some Christians today that what others do is none of my business. Therefore, any bad attitude, each morsel of gossip, every tidbit of running another person down behind their back, and a person’s spiritual lethargy or half-hearted commitment is just politely ignored. But Christian love will not allow this without a word of exhortation and a helping hand of encouragement. Every believer is to have a personal interest in the spiritual well-being of others. It is the spiritual obligation of every Christian to promote the growth in grace of every other Christian.
Love cannot be expressed in isolation, but only in community. Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. And Proverbs 27:5-6 says: Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. There is to be a care, concern, warmth, and willingness to speak truth and grace into the life of others and not leave them wallowing in a superficial Christianity with toxic relationships that are of no benefit to others.
The Church is to be a gymnasium of the soul where we dig in with a group of believers, be it hell or high water, and commit ourselves to the way of love and good deeds, rather than only having a personal concern for what benefits me. Even though Cal Ripken, Jr. is one of the greatest individual players in baseball history, what mattered most to him was succeeding as a team. In one interview, he said: “I’d much rather be referred to not as an individually great player, or someone who tore up the record books, but someone who came to the ball park and said: ‘Okay, I’m here. I want to play. What can I do to help us win today?'” He went on to say: A lot of people ask, “What is your greatest play—your greatest accomplishment?” I say, “I caught the last out of the World Series.” It wasn’t a great catch—I didn’t dive, I didn’t do a cartwheel and throw the guy out at first base. People’s mouths didn’t drop open on the play. We all want to be part of something bigger. But we all have our little jobs that we have to do as a member of a team. Everybody has their individual responsibilities, but they all have to come together for a main goal, and that’s to win. I’ve had great years when we haven’t won, and they have not been really fulfilling. I’ve had not-so-great years, but we’ve had a good success as a team, and they were more fulfilling. So the most fulfilling moment I could ever have, again, was catching the last out of the World Series—knowing we did it!
Christians are to consider one another, to pay thoughtful attention to other believers, take an interest in their welfare, and think about how to encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are to put some effort into it. A major opportunity for this occurs at corporate gatherings. Believers in Jesus are to not be in the habit of skipping opportunities for growth in grace. Attendance to church services and other Christian gatherings is not an end in itself, but is the means to the end of practicing love and good deeds toward one another. This implies and requires us to not think solely in terms of what I personally get out of the meeting, but also what we have to offer others. And what we offer to each other is, quite literally, to spur one another on. We are to give each other a loving kick in the pants when we need it. We are to be provoking, inciting, even irritating each other to spend our lives for Christ.
Please note that this does not mean we lay a guilt trip on people, because Christ’s blood cleanses us from a guilty conscience. Rather, it means we lovingly come alongside another person and help him/her be effective in walking with Jesus and being a faithful follower of Christ. If left to ourselves, we end up becoming disillusioned and bitter. Hebrews 12:15 says: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. If you are in a conversation that ends up leading to gossip, or slander, or back-biting, or tearing another down, then you need to step up to the plate and lean into that discussion and call it for what it is. And after shutting it down you need to not just walk away but turn that conversation into something that encourages and builds up and helps and spurs and incites each other to godliness. If you are not willing to do that then you had better start fasting and praying for God to grow you up so that you can do His will. After all, I am my brother’s keeper.
How is your Christian community characterized? What level of accountability exists between one another in your group? Do people love each other enough to confront? Is restoration and reconciliation pursued at all costs, or not? What can you do to help spur others on toward the way of love and good deeds?