Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Stir Up One Another”
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
When I’ve read these verses before, this exhortation to “stir up one another to love and good works” would often stand out to me. I always thought about it as a beautiful picture of a community or a group of faithful followers of Jesus coming together to motivate and encourage one another to love Jesus and love others. I’d imagine this exhortation to be like an inspirational or motivational speech that we see in movies, like the halftime speech of a sports movie or a speech from a general to his troops before they go in battle: “Let’s go and win one for Jesus everyone!”
Yet if you look up this word for “stir up” in the original language (παροξυσμὸν), it means “a provocation which literally jabs (cuts) someone so they must respond.” The implication here is that stirring up one another isn’t just a motivational or inspirational thing, but it involves provoking, jabbing, and cutting one another—meaning, it can bring discomfort or pain. It doesn’t really sound very inspirational or motivational, does it? Why should there be any discomfort or pain?
When the author of Hebrews exhorts the church to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, it implies something very important: that on our own, as individuals, without the prompting or provoking of others, we won’t make decisions or choices that lead us to love and good works. If we were perfectly capable of growing in Christ individually, we wouldn’t need others to stir us up. We need to be stirred up because otherwise, we wouldn’t love others or do good works.
In our communities then, we need to cultivate relationships and friendships for ourselves where others can stir us up to love Jesus and others, even if that means discomfort or pain, even if that means our friends rebuke or challenge us. No one really looks forwards to being rebuked or challenged. None of us really want to be told that we’re headed down a wrong or unhealthy path. But I believe all of us should desire to be pointed to Jesus by our brothers and sisters in Christ; and one of the most crucial ways this happens is when we allow others to speak truth in love into our lives. Today, let us consider how we can allow others to stir us up towards love and good works.
Prayer: Jesus, I think you for the community that you have provided for me. I pray that you will use my brothers and sisters to speak truth into my life. Stir me up towards loving You, Jesus, and others through Your body. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 11
Lunch Break Study
Read Galatians 2:11-14: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Questions to Consider
- Why did Paul confront Cephas (Peter) in this passage?
- What do you think would have happened if Paul never confronted Peter?
- Why would it have been difficult for Paul to rebuke Peter?
- Why is it difficult for us to rebuke and confront others too? How can we grow in this?
- Peter was at one point eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles, but when the circumcision party came, Peter changed his behavior out of fear of them and stopped being present with Gentiles. Paul calls him out on this, because Peter was giving into fear of man and helping to create division over bad theology.
- If Paul didn’t confront Peter, the church itself would have been divided, people would have been led astray by the bad theology of the circumcision party, and perhaps, many people would have been deeply discouraged or even led away from faith in Jesus.
- Paul could have easily felt awkward or uneasy rebuking Peter, because of Peter’s stature within the church. He had been one of Jesus’ key disciples, and he was one of the primary leaders of the early church. I think no matter our age or position, most of us would find it difficult to confront people who are older than us or more accomplished than us. There could have been fear on Paul’s part of speaking out of place or as the idiom says, going above his pay grade.
- Reflect on this for yourself, but I think, generally speaking, we all fear confronting because we worry about what people will think about us or ruining a friendship in some way. At the same time though, rebuking and confronting should be something that we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. How do we grow in it then? We must remember that we speak truth in love. Our motivation is love for our friends and love for Jesus. If we truly love our friends, we should be willing to rebuke them if it means that they will love Jesus.
A church community is necessary and crucial for growing in love for Jesus and others, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Take some time and thank God for the church community that you’re in. If you’re struggling to be thankful for your church, pray for your heart first. Pray that you will love the church like Jesus does. And then, pray that God will grow His church in love and good works.