One Anothering :: Part Two :: Consider One Another
We have seen that Jesus commanded His followers to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34) and have suggested that all of the “one-anothers” in the New Testament flow from that command (1 John 3:11, 2 John 5). As we continue this series, we’ll look to see how the apostles taught the churches to love one another by giving them more specific “one-another” commands to practice.
The author of Hebrews offers a vivid picture of what it means to love one another in chapter ten, verse 24. The ESV renders it this way: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works….” I’m no Greek scholar (and those of you who are can dialogue with me about this in the comments section), but in a moment I’ll suggest a different rendering of this verse that may more closely represent the original Greek. It seems to me that the way this verse is typically translated (see it in NIV, NASB, and NLT) may miss the point. These translations lead us to believe that the object of consider is “how to stir one another up to love and good works”, but a literal translation of the Greek would indicate that the object of consider is actually “one another” as in “consider one another.” This distinction is important because it makes a world of difference in the way we carry out this command.
The word that is translated consider means “to take notice of and think carefully about something or someone.” If we are to apply the verse as it is most commonly translated, we would expect to spend a considerable amount of time and energy thinking of means and methods by which we can stir up our brothers and sisters to love and good deeds. We might get together in committees or teams or church staff meetings and brainstorm activities, programs, teaching methods, Bible studies, small group interactions, service projects, and any number of other ways that people can be incited to and involved in loving others and doing good works. And what’s wrong with that, you may wonder. Nothing really, except that first, that’s not what the writer asks us to do, and second, it tempts us to place our focus on programs and activities rather than on people.
Perhaps, according to its grammatical structure, the verse should read something like this: “And let us consider one another unto the stirring up of love and good works.” In other words, the Spirit of God through the writer of Hebrews is asking us to look carefully at one another, to know and relate to each other in a way that will result in stirring us up (literally provoking us) to love others as Christ has loved us by laying down our lives in the service of good works for others. This means that the church’s emphasis must be on relationships rather than activities, on people before programs. How many times in my 20 years of church service have I considered and constructed a program or “ministry” without first knowing and living in community with the people I am hoping these activities will transform into lovers and servants of God and others?
God recently used Eugene Peterson’s words in The Jesus Way to convict me of this subtle shift:
The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal: nothing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular, local…The ways employed in our North American culture are conspicuously impersonal: programs, organizations, techniques, general guidelines, information detached from place…We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing-and the gospel is personal or it is nothing…When it comes to persons, these ways of the world are terribly destructive. They are highly effective in getting ahead in a God- indifferent world, but not in the community of Jesus, not in the kingdom of God…the North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way (pp. 1-5).
Rather than invest my efforts primarily in programs, I should be pursuing ways for brothers and sisters in Christ to “consider one another,” to know each other in a way that will leave each one’s fire of love and flame of service stoked to white hot fervor. That’s what church is about.
But this kind of mutual consideration is not what church seems to accomplish in many cases. Something radical must happen before we can relate to one another in this way. Before there can be a horizontal consideration of one another, there must be a vertical consideration of Christ Jesus. In fact, the only other time the author of Hebrews uses this word consider is in chapter 3, verse 1: “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him….” We who are brothers and sisters in Christ must pay close attention to Christ, thinking long and hard about this One who was sent and sacrificed for us. J
Notice that just before we’re given the command to consider one another in chapter 10, verse 24, the writer urges us again to consider Jesus as the faithful high priest and final sacrifice for our sins through whom we have access to intimacy with God:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV [bold highlights mine]
Now go and practice cruciform consideration: first consider Jesus as you embrace Him again as He is offered in the gospel, then consider one another in a way that produces expressions of love and good deeds that exalt Jesus.