Pastor’s Friday Reflection
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
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The Scripture from Hebrews is one of my favorite passages from the Bible. But there’s always been an inherent contradiction for me in these words – “…provoke one another to love and good deeds…” My kids are now 32 and 29, but I can still remember when my daughter was about five and her little brother knew just how to provoke a response from her, and not one of love and good deeds. Doug knew every one of Jenny’s buttons, and he had no difficulty pushing those buttons to get a rise out of her. He “provoked” her unmercifully, and always got a response – tears, anger, or frustration. So when I read the passage from Hebrews, that’s the first image I see – my daughter red in the face and my son with a smug, “gotcha” look on his visage.
But as I thought about it, I realized there was actually something helpful in that image. Doug knew Jenny’s buttons, and knew how to provoke her; I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew each others good deed buttons? If we knew how to provoke love instead of anger or frustration? What would happen if we could interact with each other in ways that were just as provoking as my son’s when he was 2 and 1/2, but resulted in good deeds rather than crying and calling for mommy?
Perhaps that is what the author of Hebrews had in mind. We all have a pretty good idea of the buttons that will send our neighbors into anger and frustration, but how well do we know the buttons that result in love and good deeds? Those buttons are much more difficult to find, but they are the ones that we Christians are called to discover. Christ understands that left on our own, the world around us is pushing the wrong buttons; it doesn’t take much to send us into that downward spiral of anger, accusation or frustration. That’s why we have the church, a place that will help us counteract the natural tendencies of the world and move us toward love and acceptance rather than anger or hate. Here in the church, we can encourage each other when those natural negative tendencies raise their heads; we can help each other let go of the anger and frustration that the world naturally elicits from us and instead move toward loving affirmation, forgiveness and hope.
This summer, why don’t we study each other with an eye to finding those buttons of love and good deeds, to discovering the ways we can provoke each other to living as gospel people? It is my hope that we can encourage one another and discover that each of us has love to share and good deeds to offer that will help make our church all that God could desire.