Thursday, February 24

Encouraging Thoughts

But encourage one another, while it is still called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. --Hebrews 3:13

For the greater part of my life, my friends were mostly people whom I had known for 10 years of more. Now that I'm married, I no longer live near my hometown friends. Growing up in a close-knit community, I experienced a social environment that was relatively unchanging, and I took that for granted. I just assumed that the only valuable friendships were those with people I had known for the better part of a decade. Up until recently, I distanced myself from new people, and told myself that it wasn't worth investing in any new relationships, particularly with people who wouldn't be around for more than a year or two (a common thing at our church, which has a lot of seminary students.)

How completely selfish that way of thinking was! I hang my head at the thought of how many wonderful chances I had to get to know different people, but didn't. I passed up a lot of opportunities because I thought that unless I was getting a good return on my personal investment in a friendship, then I shouldn't even bother. Even more upsetting is the realization that the more I distanced myself, the less I was in constant fellowship with other Christians. This gave the enemy a chance to harden my heart and usher in feelings of discouragement over the fact that I didn't have any "close" friends at my new church home.

This verse in Hebrews says that we are to encourage each other while it is still called today. While reading it, the phrase carpe diem springs to my mind. I thought about how I could apply this idea of encouraging others to my desire to act differently in my approach to seizing the day and starting to develop friendships. In looking up the definition of encourage, I found that the phrase "to give support to; foster" seemed the most applicable, and the most in tune with how Christian communities should work.

Part of the function of the body of Christ, his church, is to do just as the definition says. We when come together in a spirit of Christian fellowship, we are strengthened by the combining of individual gifts and talents from all members of the church. As a result, we are able to support one another more effectively in a variety of life situations. This ultimately fosters a greater ability to live in a more Christ-like manner.

The more I think about this verse and the word encouragement, I think about how important friendships are, especially among Christians. When Jesus began his ministry, he did so with a group of men who undoubtedly become his closest personal friends. Unlike me, Jesus didn't dismiss the idea of friendship with them simply because he was only going to be with them for a short period of time. A few years must have seemed very short indeed to someone who has a true grasp on the concept of eternity! Furthermore, Jesus didn't hold himself back from loving people completely, even when he knew they would never invest the same level of effort into knowing and loving him in return.

In the future, I plan to eliminate my own social agenda when it comes to forming friendships. No matter how long those relationships may last, I need to approach them with the goal of being an encourager. To love like Jesus does, I need to work on seizing the opportunities to develop unique relationships with any number of my fellow Christians.



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