Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. [NRSV]
The “E” Word
We are generally good at encouraging one another. Sometimes we are encouraged by fear. Examples:
- The Hurricane is coming our way, it’s time to evacuate! or
- There is a brush fire out of control next door, call 911 now!
- I heard a gunshot outside, take cover and call the police!
Coaches motivate players by saying things like:
- If you don’t come to practice you will not play Friday night
- if you don’t play Friday night you are off the team
- If you are off the team you will not be picked up by any college scouts
- Now get out there and run stadiums until you remember why not to miss practice.
While this is motivational, it is never encouraging. (Even if you say you’re being helpful)
Encouragement is more than motivational
Paul offers us instruction and challenge to encourage one another.
The Bishop has motivated the clergy saying, if you want an appointment next year, you will baptize 3-5 new Christians each year. [This motivates me to put an advertisement out in the paper and social media for unbaptized folks offering @ $100 to meet the requirement, but it does not encourage me to share my faith in transformative ways.]
To encourage someone with your faith sharing gift calls on you/me to
- Be Ready. be prepared to share: (Prayed up, studied up, practiced up, and looking for opportunities.
- Think about
- The difference of what inspires you and what motivates you.
- What is the difference between what scares you into action and what compels you to action?
- From that perspective of encouragement: write out these constructive ways to be supported.
Examples for John/Me
Deadlines, Requirements, Contacts, Leverage, Time, Money, Pier pressure, Approval are all motivators in my life.
When inspires me to share my faith is:
- When I do and see how God uses our conversations to open hearts and minds that were closed.
- When I ready and prepare to share my faith, God does not let that preparation go to sit still for very long.
- When I ask people to tell me what gives them hope, what they are passionate about that gives their life meaning and purpose, and they begin to talk about God it affirms my faith.
- If they realize gaps and holes in their foundations, then God uses those as places to share my faith.
- Songs, stories, and movies that capture a moment of for God encourage in the moment and become faith conversations in the future.
- Hearing someone say, I’d like to be baptized. I’d like to become part of the church. I’d want to learn more. I want to experience what my head know in my heart. These are open doors of affirmation and faith sharing.
If I’m not preparing and I’m not guiding conversations and relationship toward faith.. then I’m at best standing still, loosing time and opportunities.
- That becomes a movtivation.. to return to encouragement
Paul starts with don’t lead with judgment.
There is a time for decerning judgment and correction and accountability, but it comes after we are mature int he faith.
The gift for criticism.
Paul is challenging us to lead from the love of Christ.
- Rather than I know you are a sinner! What are you at the well all alone in the heat of the day?
- Rather than I know you have been taking advantage of people and working the system and calling it your job, I’m inviting myself over to your house.
- Rather than sort out who is to blame, how can God be glorified in this broken situation?
- Rather than stone the guilty, let’s talk about who is not guilty
PRACTICAL STUFF: There is a part of me that might want to tell a young man with his pants hanging nearly to his knees, “Are you applying for the Universtiy of Sloppy or Thugs college this fall?” But that is neither a helpful motivator nor encouragement.
Encouragement: You can do it; keep trying; learn from your mistakes, let it go, keep up the good work, I appreciate you. I love you. I need you. We are honored to have you with us.
There are starting points. Resist the first response of pointing out the infractions, sins, failures, and shortcomings.
Motivational: If you want to get ahead in life, you need to stop playing video games and get a job.
Encouragement: I’m sorry to interrupt, I know you have good eye-hand coordination from your video games, come help me rake leaves for a few minutes?
Motivational: If you don’t keep your things clean you are out of this house.
Encouragement: I would like to know what it means to be a responsible part of this household.
Encouragement: After we establish who is to blame what, it would be most helpful to know what you understand each person’s responsibilities are in this household.
My faith perspective might seem wrong/hurtful/different/old-school to you, I would be an encouragement to me to know:
- what brings you hope when you are depressed,
- how do you find joy when you sad,
- where do you find the strength to do what seems impossible?
- who do you turn to when your friends turn on you
- The “A” Word
Accountability is a word we too often excuse ourselves from invoking so that others will take it easy on us.
We are free to say whatever we want to say, but saying something will have consequences.
We are free to do what we want to do as long as we do not deny someone civil rights, but with those actions come consequences.
So much of the division of political parties, interest groups and fear-mongering individuals is the idea that we are not accountable for our words, thoughts and actions.
Paul is clear that our religious practices, our signs of spiritual growth differ among people and groups. Some express faith through rules about eating, some about which day they worship or which days are holidays. Don’t neglect encouraging all those in Christ despite our differences, encourage Christ’s in everyone.
Accountability to keeping the Rules or the commandment to love our enemies?
Pass on Encouragement to one another
Pass over Judging one another, leave judging to God.
Paul is writing from the experience perspective at the end of ministry which differs from his beginning in ministry.
Proclaim Jesus, Encourage One another
A plan to encourage:
- Don’t judge
- Takes personal prayer, study and maturity of faith
- Act, think, speak in Christ-like ways
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- To the sinner, he invites into the fellowship, table, well,
- To the sick, he invites into wholeness
- To the separated, he enters their home
- To the closed minded, he opens convertations
- To the
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- Practice supportive examples and stay involved.
- Invite to Sunday School
- follow up. if SS is not for you how do you study/grow
- suggest studies, groups, others,
- ask to share with them in their disciplines
- set time/date to check in
- follow-up and try another suggestion,
Ways to encourage without judging:
- Send a card, note, email, text, phone call or face-to-face expression care for the person.
- Pray for this person and the need, struggle, concern truing God to open doors, hearts, minds and spirits.
- Discern how many people/relationships you can actively support. and
- try adding more than you can handle alone and
- replace new people/relationship when closure comes.
- Open our mouths, minds, and hearts to real conversations and relationship led by Christ.
As we prepare to be those who give the gift of faith: (Wesley Rules overlap)
- Do no harm: “Don’t lead with judgment” let God sort that our for now.
- Do all the good: “Encourage rather than just motivate.
- Practice Spiritual Exercises to keep us in shape for not judging and being ready to find the way to heart that doesn’t beat up the head and spirit.