If you want to do a very practical biblical study, look at the words “one another” in Acts and the Church Epistles. You will find about 40 associated verbs, most of them imperative. There are many things you and I are commanded by God to be, think, do and say to our brethren in the Lord. In these relational attitudes and actions lie the keys to the truly more abundant life. No Christian can, by himself, fulfill his spiritual destiny or be fulfilled.
Next to my primary responsibility to love God is my responsibility to love my “neighbor.” The word “neighbor” means “near one.” Thus, in the course of a day, I have many “neighbors,” starting with my “immediate family.” Each relationship presents many unique challenges and opportunities for me to trust God. Why? Because often I do not know exactly what to do, when I do know something must be done. These never-ending situations allow me to step toward my “near one” and watch the Lord Jesus meet me in the gap between my ability and the person’s need. He is the bridge over troubled waters, providing for me whatever I need to manifest his heart to another.
Oswald Chambers has written that a Christian must consciously identify with Jesus Christ’s interests in each of the other people in his life. Please think about some of the near ones in your life. How well do you really know them? Do you know their dreams, their fears, their goals? Do you know what they are committed to be and do for the Lord and for others? What are you doing to press into their hearts to find out this vital information?
The more clearly you understand another’s commitments, the more effectually you can be committed to helping him achieve them. As you reach out to him with this kind of bold love, you earn his permission to interrupt weakness, sin or idolatry in his life, and help him get back on track toward his commitments. Such specificity in relationships also helps you to know whether or not you are succeeding in causing in another whatever it is you are committed to cause. For you, what is that?
What action on your part do you think will usually be involved in such relational give-and-take? How about speaking up? Yes, there are times when silence is appropriate, but in the context of what I am sharing here, I assert that silence produces death in relationships. Recently I read (and highly recommend) a great book, The Silence of Adam, by Larry Crabb (written primarily for men). The premise of the book is that in Genesis 3:6, Adam was right there with his wife when she sinned, and he did not open his mouth. Likewise, men today tend not to open up and speak from the heart, even to their wives.
How often have I given tacit (silent) consent to something I knew was wrong or could hurt someone? Too often. I wonder why this is such a tendency with me. Gee, you think it could be fear? Okay, fear of what? How about disapproval, rejection or loss of reputation, friends, money or life? In reality, it is seldom the last two. Usually it is because I want to hang onto the idols of looking good, feeling good, or being right. Fear is almost always about me. But wait—there’s a cure. Perfect love displaces fear. Why? Because when I truly love you, I am thinking of you, not myself.
Hebrews 10:22–25 are four fabulous verses. Hebrews 1:1 to 10:21 is all about the relationship of Jesus Christ to Israel, and how by his finished work each believer is made righteous, independent of any works of his own. Based upon this fundamental and indispensable truth, Hebrews 10:22–25 sets forth five exhortations. Let us look at the last three:
Hebrews 10:24 and 25
(24) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
(25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The Greek word for “consider” means “to think deeply.” I am to exert mental energy in determining how I can inspire and motivate you to love (which is a verb, resulting in doing good works). “Spur” is “provoke” in the KJV, and includes the idea of speaking to one another. Guess what? So does the word “encourage.” It literally means “to call to one’s side to speak any words necessary to exhort to a worthy endeavor.”
Note that sandwiched between the two exhortations to speak up is another: don’t quit on one another! By the way, you can quit on someone and still see him at a weekly fellowship, or even live under the same roof with him. So it’s not about just getting together with someone, it’s about becoming one in the Lord with him. Such oneness does not just happen. In fact, it requires a relentless struggle on the part of people whose fallen natures lurking within them fight to prevent any true bonding. In this struggle, failing while moving toward another is not really failure. Only quitting is failure.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). Iron only sharpens other iron if the two pieces have sustained contact with one another. And iron is a tough enough metal to stay in sustained contact with other metal of the same composition and not be destroyed, but rather be improved and made more useful. You and I have at the core of our beings holy spirit, the divine nature. Nothing godly in you or me can be destroyed by contact with another person, and the rest that is in us needs to go anyway.
Speaking the truth in love often requires real courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather mental and moral strength that enables me to speak or act as I should, despite my fear. A coward speaks also, but he speaks to someone else about you, rather than directly to you. It is not always wrong to do this (it depends upon one’s motive, and to whom he speaks), but usually such “corrupt communication” is nothing but gossip. Gossip forms a triangular relationship among the coward (the one who speaks), the caretaker (the one spoken to, if he buys into the “conspiracy”) and the casualty (the one spoken about).
Struggling to knit your heart with another saint is often painful, but Proverbs 27:6a says that “Wounds from a friend can be trusted….” The more you know that someone loves you, the more you trust his “wounds,” that is, the words he speaks to pierce your heart and encourage or correct you. Such words are just the opposite of the “fiery darts” of the Enemy designed to pierce and destroy you.
Speaking up to a brother in Christ could be me telling you what is missing for me in our relationship. But it could also be me exposing my weaknesses (secrets) to you so that you could know how to best serve me. Though I might fear that you wouldn’t love me if you knew about such a weakness, the truth is that a believer who really loves would love me more, and do what he could to help me. Such willingness to entrust myself to the Lord and open my heart to you usually causes intimacy, which could be thought of as “into me see.” This is what genuine Christianity is all about, and it is a big key to great outreach among unbelievers (see John 13:35).
What’s the alternative to genuine Christianity? Indifference, apathy, cowardice, uninvolvement, and the agony of defeat with no chance for the thrill of victory. This often leads to a miserable existence of self-focus and a corresponding victim mentality, with their corresponding curse—loneliness. So let’s do all we can to become like Christ and speak up truthfully with each other, in love.