“Let us consider how we may provoke one
another toward love and good deeds.”
When I read this verse, I had to pause. When I step back and analyze my life, can it be said that I spur others to love and do good deeds? Sure, my last article spoke about the need to demonstrate love to our fellow Christians, but do I actively encourage the people around me to do good and be loving? I have to consider what this would look like if it were put into action. When my friend comes to me to rant about a situation, when someone holds a grudge against another, when that hard to love person frustrates another person, am I in the middle being a peacemaker?
I think some Christians struggle to maintain this perspective. Your friend will be more appreciative if you side with them and show righteous indignation that they’ve been wronged, rather than if you are that gentle voice that reminds them to be loving even in their anger. When we are the listening ear to a person in distress, we have an opportunity to strengthen their faith. It is easy to get enveloped in emotion, but it is hard to ask them, “What would Jesus do here?” It is incredibly difficult and unpopular to advise someone not to be offended. My sister once told me that instead of being hurt and angry by something, I should become like a duck that allows the water to roll off its back. It wasn’t a very biblical expression, but she helped me more than anyone who got angry with me. She, in fact, was helping me to be loving when she said it.
This verse doesn’t just apply to when someone has been wronged, though. It applies when people are being mean to that annoying coworker. It applies to that person who is jealous of someone else. It applies in almost every single situation because at nearly every moment, someone around us is failing to show love. At times, we may not even need to prompt them to do good with words – our actions can be enough. In fact, our actions may be more motivational than our words. Small gestures like thanking the cook for the meal, often prompt those around you to do the same. Taking an undesirable shift for a coworker, holding the door for a group of people, paying for the person behind you in line, offering to help someone move, and more acts of service can inspire others to do the same.
I imagine a body of believers who inspire each other to show love through serving, and I believe it is exactly how God intended His church to be. This outpouring of love would not be restricted to the church itself, but inherently it would overflow into the world itself. In a world so filled with hate and anger, loving and serving Christians would not only be noticeable but attractive. This is not the only way, but by following this scripture we may draw others to Christ unknowingly. And in this life, that is ultimately our only purpose.