And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
It is easy to provoke and to be provoked unto anger and frustration. We do it all the time, in church and out. Our default setting is to consider ourselves, not each other—and that is a surefire way to provoke those around us in anything but a good way. Provoking, stirring one another up, to love and to good works isn’t going to happen by accident, which is why the author of Hebrew exhorted his readers—and us—to “consider one another,” to set our minds to the task of mutual encouragement, exhortation, and edification.
I would love to give you a list of things you could do that are guaranteed to produce “love and good works” in every believer that you come in contact with—but there simply isn’t any list like this. A checklist, no matter how long, misses the point altogether. Checklists never produce the community that is the point of this exhortation. Considering, setting our mind on the needs of our fellow believers, does. Of course this isn’t going to happen at all if you forsake the assembly for something else—but it is also not guaranteed to happen just because you show up. There is more to being a member of the body than listening to the sermons, putting something in the offering plate, and voting at church business meetings. Becoming a member of a church is about far more than getting your name in the directory—it is about becoming part of a body that has many members, a body whose health you are directly, as a fellow member, responsible for.
We don’t all minister to the needs of the body in exactly the same way. God has gifted every member uniquely—the way that you demonstrate your concern for the body may look different from the way that someone else does, and that is perfectly all right. The point is not that we all are to be going around asking each other the same list of canned questions but that every one of us are to be constantly considering how we can contribute to the spiritual health of the body. While this exhortation can be carried out in many different ways, it will never be obeyed by accident. You will never stir anyone up to anything good without deliberate and intentional consideration.
Just as the way that each of us will demonstrate our concern for each other will look different, so the things that keep us from showing concern will look different as well. Some, perhaps, are too busy with their own agenda to take the time to consider the needs of others. Some might be very concerned with the needs that other people have—but their solutions rarely involve love and good works. Perhaps you feel as though you have done your duty to the community simply by showing up at the service or putting something in the offering plate. Perhaps you are afraid to get involved in the lives of others because they might point out areas where you yourself need to make some changes. Excuses never excuse disobedience.
This call to community, this call to consider one another, isn’t a call only for those gifted with amazing social skills. It is something that goes far deeper than simply enjoying conversation with your fellow believers. What it really boils down to is whether or not we are willing to love our fellow members enough to always seek to help them grow in conformity to Christ, even when they don’t feel like growing and we don’t feel like helping. The bottom line is love, not personality. True community, the community that we are called to in this passage, is never easy—but it is also never optional. Are you committed to this kind of community? Does the way in which you interact with your fellow believers demonstrate that commitment? If it doesn’t, it might be time for some considering.
Note: The above is adapted from a message I preached on June 12 entitled, “Community Is Not Optional.”