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Encourage One Another


"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

This is the final directive Paul gives in preparation for judgment day. In fact, this is a repeated admonition from the end of 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul must have known how much we need to be reminded that this is one of our main tasks; this is how we need to treat one another as Christians. Yet, how little this is in evidence in the Church today. Too often, the Church mirrors the same divisive culture war that is going on in our society at large at present. Everywhere one looks in the media one can see Christians tearing down one another, saying that the other faction, "they," are not Christians because they do not agree with "us" on this issue or that issue. Rather than building one another up, we in the Church today are all too effective at tearing one another down.

Perhaps the main reason we get caught in this trap is because we forget who the judge is. We are not the judges of one another. Only Jesus can appropriately fill that role, sit in that seat. We need to learn to leave judgment to him. As Jesus himself has told us: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged." (Matthew 7:1)

I was reminded of the importance of following this command just the other day in reading these thoughts from Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey....
One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren't even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in color, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.
Strangers, people different from us, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being "other." Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at "those other persons" as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in humanity is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart. Then the need to pre-judge people can gradually disappear. 
One of the best things we can do to prepare ourselves for Jesus coming in judgment is to simply remember that he is the judge and to leave all judgment to him, to replace judgment with encouragement. Easier said than done. That's why we need the help of the next person we are going to learn about from The Apostles' Creed ... the Holy Spirit ....

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