Consider One Another
As the summer holidays start here in the UAE, I wanted to write this article to remind us all to be intentional during this summer break. During this summer break, we have an opportunity to put into practice what we have been learning from the book of Philippians, to "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
Summer here in the UAE can be hostile, trying and sometimes depressing. This is the season, when we have to say our goodbyes to friends who are moving back oversees, which we have spent several years getting to know and love. It is never easy saying goodbye to brothers and sister in Christ, who have become closer than many of our blood relatives.
Some get to go away on holiday and spend quality time with family and friends, while others are left behind in the blistering heat. For me as a pastor, to see the numbers in our congregation drop because of the holidays is very discouraging. This is a season, we need to ‘consider each other’, encourage and be encouraged!
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
These words were written during a time of great upheaval. Jewish Christians were facing increasing hostility from the surrounding culture. Further, within a couple of years, Jerusalem would become the centre of Israel’s most devastating war. If ever there was a time when people might be tempted to consider themselves, even to the point of isolating themselves, perhaps this would be it. But our writer counter intuitively admonishes them to consider others, and to do so together.
The word translated “consider” means “to observe fully,” or to “fix one’s eyes or mind upon” something. It is not an exhortation to merely give a passing glance to one another; rather, it is a strong admonition to pay careful attention to one another, to look out for one another. It is an exhortation to take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of each other. This is clear from what follows: “in order to stir up love and good works.” That is, we are to so closely observe one another that we notice when love lags and good works languish. Our concern is to translate into effort to encourage one another in the love of God and to motivate them to keep on keeping on. “Provoking to perseverance” is a good way to put it. But again, this requires that we give thought to each other. We are to set our minds on practically caring for each other.
Paul had something similar in mind when he wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”(2:3). To “count” is to think of another—to think, “What is best for him/her?”
Great encouragement can arise from a simple message: “I just wanted you to know that you have been on my heart lately.” To be considered by another is to be encouraged that you matter. And that matters; it matters a lot.
In each of these cases, our considering one another is practically carried out by assembling with one another. The writer in Hebrews, was not just concerned with the congregation gathering on Sunday. No, he was concerned that God’s beleaguered people gather whenever and wherever they could.
Its always sad to hear that people in our own congregation feel left out. For some reason they weren't considered when the guest list was being prepared. God forbid that anyone should have the impression that, at the end of the day, no one considers them. We are commanded to correct this. We are commanded to be considerate. Consideration goes a long way towards ministering the love of Christ. Let me make some specific practical suggestions.
Hospitality. As Christians, we are to open our lives and our homes, not only to those with whom we have the most in common, but to those who might be considered “strangers.” “Hospitable” in the New Testament means “a lover of strangers.” This is an expectation for every Christian (1 Peter 4:9), and a requirement for those serving as elders (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). To whom do we open our homes? Only those with whom we feel the most comfortable? Yet, if we consider one another, we will not forsake assembling with a wider circle of people. To use an important word, we will be more inclusive with our invitations. When planning that Sunday lunch, consider those who are different demographically from you. If you are single, consider those who are married, and vice-versa. If you are from one nationality, consider a person from a different nationality. If you are young, consider those who are not so young. If you are boring, consider someone who is not boring!
While most of our Home groups take a break during summer, use this time to go and have coffee with someone you don’t know very well, or invite some new folks over for a games evening or go pray with a brother or sister you never had the time to before. Why not read an encouraging Christian book together with a few friends?
The writer of Hebrews adds that as believers we are to encourage each other in the Lord, “to stir up one another to love and good works”. During this summer season here in Abu Dhabi, we can be tempted to isolate ourselves. The heat can be a very reasonable excuse. But let’s not! Let us rather be intentional and active in gathering together, as we are commanded to do.
God’s commandments are not designed to make us gloomy or bored or sad. They are meant to do the opposite. So be encouraged and be involved in the ministry of encouraging this summer season, so that God will get the glory and we, His people will receive the joy as we grow together in both love and in good works!
May this be the best summer ever!