The strength of love

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Encourage; Encouragement)

The [Hebrew Scriptures] uses a … verb … meaning “strengthen” for expressing its concepts of encouragement. Leaders are to be encouraged by their followers (Dt. 1:38; 3:28; 2 S. 11:25), and fellow workers by each other (Isa. 41:7). This strengthening takes place within a person and thus has to do with the attitudes with which one faces life;

Last week I wrote about our need to provoke and encourage each other on this journey to build our new community. (If you didn’t read last week’s post please go back and read it. Provoking in that context meant “urging on”, “challenging”, or “stirring up”.

Encouragement to strengthen

Often when we think of “strong personalities” we think of people who are clear, direct, and … rigid. Being personally strong in this day and age often means “standing up for what you believe in, no matter what”. If we look at the quote from the Interantional Standard Bible Encyclopedia though, we can see that encouragement and strengthening in the context of the Hebrew Scriptures is done within community. We know that within community being “rigid” doesn’t always work well.

The image of a tree comes to mind. In some cases we look at a tree in a storm and there’s no sway, and no movement. Later we find out that the tree once seen as rigid has broken. In other cases we look at a tree in a storm and it is swaying and moving all over the place. Later we find out that the tree once see as too flexible is the one that survived the storm.

Strong attitude

Having what our society calls a “strong attitude” might actually work against us in some cases. The attitude that we have when facing our life (be that our individual lives, or our lives within a community) can impact our ability to respond to the storms of life.

My hope and prayer is that we form a strong community in this place, one that is strongly rooted in our traditions, and in particular the teachings of Jesus as we’ve received them. May we be willing to live out what Jesus said were the two most important commandments:

Matthew 22:37–40 NRSV

He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”