Extending Forgiveness and Encouragement
Open Your Bible
Hebrews 10:1-25, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-24, Malachi 2:10
Words of affirmation used to compete for the top spot among my love languages. Working in church ministry for several years, I’ve had the privilege of watching believers go above and beyond in practicing it. Social media posts with captions that could make you weep, cards and treats, and endearing announcements from the stage or pulpit—you name it, I’ve seen it. It didn’t take long for my internal challenger to kick in, wondering, “Do they really mean that?” It wasn’t that the encouragement came from disingenuous people, but often the encouragement I witnessed was rooted in subjectivity, dependent on ever-changing opinions. The encouragement we extend is usually intended to boost someone’s confidence or answer the question, “What can I do to make this person feel better?”
Today, we read two passages that, despite different church contexts and authors, arrive at the same place—the call to encourage (Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). The call to encourage is commanded in both, but it’s different from the call I’ve often witnessed and practiced.
Hebrews 10:1–25 explores Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament sacrifices and priests, along with exhortations for believers in light of Christ’s past and present work. As our priest, Jesus allows us to dwell in the presence of God with boldness and confidence. Out of this new position, Paul’s exhortation to encourage emerges. The command in Hebrews extends beyond a person—it’s not meant to be dependent on our impression of someone, but in all Christ has done for them.
Whereas Hebrews 10 focuses on Christ’s past and present work, in Thessalonians Paul focuses on Christ’s future return. In a book clarifying questions about the reality and timing of Christ’s return, the call Paul emphasized wasn’t to sit around trying to determine when Christ might return, but to encourage one another in kingdom work until Christ returns.
I’m thankful that the call to extend encouragement isn’t rooted in a surface level boost of confidence—instead it is rooted in the rich theology of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and His coming return. This is a call rooted in the Lord, rather than the recipients of our encouragement.
Don’t get me wrong, encouragement that’s all about me feels great in the moment, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t point me to Christ or call me to obedience.
Let’s be women who encourage beyond the surface, rooting our encouragement in the gospel. Consider taking your inspiration from Hebrews, reminding a doubting brother or sister in Christ of the impact of the gospel you have seen evident in their lives. Or, take your encouragement from Thessalonians, encouraging an exhausted believer in their obedience to the gospel you have witnessed. Today, how will you root your words of encouragement in Christ’s work and His calling for our obedience?