Provoking Encouragement

Hebrews 10:24–25 NRSV

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I remember a few years ago being at a retreat session and we were asked to find a biblical verse that was speaking to us. One of the retreatants came up with this verse. They shared it, and the language jostled me. I had to sit back and think about what was being said here, because initially I didn’t like the fact that these verses were shared.


After some reflection, I realised it was the word “provoke” that jostled me. Good Christians don’t provoke other people — we turn the other cheek, we offer our second cloak, we sell all our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor (OK, none of us do all that all the time, but it is still the ideal from the scriptures.)

On deeper reflection, I began to understand that I had forgotten that provoke can also be “urging on” or “challenge” or “stir up”. I had taken on the harsher parts of the meaning of provoke, and forgotten the gentler parts.

It is these gentler parts of the meaning of provoke that sit well with the second part of these verses — encouraging one another.


I am really encouraged by the progress that we made to become one community through the pandemic. I know that there are still many challenges ahead of us — some of us want to move faster, and some slower; some of us want more of ___fill_in_the_blank___, and some want more of ____the_opposite____. How will we get through those tough moments? By provoking one another to love, and good deeds; and by provoking one another to meet together. By encouraging one another we become a stronger community, with a stronger identity, and one that more closely resembles God’s will in this place. So let us provoke and encourage each other so God’s will be done this day and well into the future.