“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
The Apostle Paul was passionate about planting and equipping churches. Even more, he felt protective of them, with a fatherly sense of affection for each. Since his ministry called him to travel, he couldn’t stay to oversee any one church. So, his letters are full of advice about the logistics of running services, as well as foundational teachings about Christian faith.
In his writings. Paul placed a lot of emphasis on relationships between believers. He often reminded his readers that followers of Christ shared a profound bond, and were called to live together in unity of heart and mind.
Paul understood how challenging that call was, though. Living “as one” requires sacrifice, namely as Paul puts it, to think of others above ourselves. That instruction hasn’t gotten any easier over the centuries, has it? I know it goes against my human nature.
This verse in Thessalonians is a great way to fix my focus in a better place than my own problems and plans. As soon as I take the time to say something encouraging to another person, I’ve shifted gears – me-centered eases into he/she-centered. Out of that comes a God-centered moment of bonding with that brother or sister.
The change in focus can happen quickly, and when it does, it tends to feed on itself. After reaching out beyond myself once, many times I’ll want to keep it going, and see who else might need encouragement.
I like how the King James translation puts this verse: “comfort yourselves together.” At its best, building others up has a positive effect on the whole community of believers – encouragement, comfort, peace, joy. What if all our churches sought that covenant above any other ministry?
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