May We Spur One Another on Toward Love…

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“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25). These are important admonitions for us to hear and to take seriously today as well. This is what we are to do for one another in honor of the one who was, is, and will always be faithful in his promise to us.

It is by the grace of God that we have received this faith. It is in thanksgiving for this great gift, then, that we are admonished to hold to what we profess with unswerving hope. It is in this holy virtue of hope that we are called to live our faith openly, not just privately. God is with us individually, yes, there is no doubt of this. But God has also called us into community as the Body of Christ here on earth. What does that mean then?

First, it means that we are to love one another as he loved us. This is not always easy. There are many reasons why we may fall short in doing this, but it is the absolute center of our calling. We are to be Christ-like lovers, loving God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves. Our love is to be deep enough to be able to be able to share it not just with our families and friends, but even with those who, for one reason or another, consider themselves our enemies. It is supposed to be real enough that it can even risk, or willingly lose one’s life in the defense of others, known and even unknown. As human beings, we often need encouragement in this. We need to learn how to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Our good deeds are not to be done for “credit” on some kind of heavenly accounting sheet. They are to arise out of a largeness of love. They are to be the accidental by-products of the real and true love that we have for others, in imitation of Jesus Christ.

How do we learn this love most effectively? In relationship. In relationship with God, yes, and in relationship with our church communities. This part of Paul’s admonition is very specific. He is telling us, through the Holy Spirit, that our regular meeting together on the sabbath, to listen to the word of God and to worship together, is absolutely important. It is in the Body of Christ that we learn how to love, to forgive, and to “spur” one another on toward love and the good deeds that arise from such a pure love. He makes a point of criticising those who have made a habit of “giving up on” the practice of the Sabbath for any number of rationalized reasons. Then Paul tells us that those whose faith reveals to them the Day that is approaching, that is, both one’s individual death and the Last Day when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, will do these things joyfully, because they are wise in the faith. They have the wisdom that comes from a faith inspired fear of the Lord.

Lord, Our hearts yearn to be filled with your love. Fill us to overflowing with your love, so that we may share it freely with others. Help us to spur our brothers and sisters on to love with our own love toward them in community. Make us strong in the faith and faithful in honoring the Sabbath. We know that you will come again on the Last Day. Give us the graces we need to remain true to you through all things. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.