Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
College campuses are notoriously non-Christian, even anti-Christian. And yet Christian student ministries thrive on these campuses. The best example is Campus Crusade for Christ. Now called Cru, this ministry, which started on the campus of my alma mater, UCLA (Go Bruins!) in 1951, has grown to be one of the largest charitable organizations in the US, with chapters on almost 2,000 campuses and an annual income of $500 million.
Why such success? There are many reasons, but one primary one is the opportunity for young Christian believers to live in a college community with each other. The experience of spontaneous, daily fellowship around shared values and common beliefs only strengthens Christian students and galvanizes them as they stand for their faith in the classroom and live out their Christian testimony before their non Christian friends.
Interestingly, the experience of these young Christians on their college campuses closely parallels that of believers in the first and second centuries. Those believers also lived in a hostile pagan environment and their daily interactions with each other were often and spontaneous, like those of today’s college students.
Just as Christian student residents today live on or near their campus, walk everywhere, and run into each other during the course of the day, the same was true of early believers. The majority of them lived in small, densely populated cities with about the same population as a typical college campus. They walked everywhere and constantly ran into each other as they went about their daily lives.
So the “one another” commands we see in the New Testament made sense to these believers. When Paul commanded Christians in the city of Ephesus to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (4:32), he wasn’t picturing a group of believers in some church building–there weren’t any church buildings–but rather he was thinking of them while they were out and about. They were to be kind and tenderhearted to each other other as they went to the agora to buy food, or attended the Roman theater to see sporting events.
And that brings us to our passage in Hebrews 10:24 and the problem we have applying it and other “one another” passages in our general culture. Most Christians today don’t live on college campuses. Instead, they live in urban and suburban America. Transience, isolation and impersonal human interactions are the norm. (Picture the drive through at McDonalds.) Instead of the seamless, natural and regular social relationships that Christian students enjoy on college campuses–and that all Christians enjoyed in early Christianity–today’s non-student Christians’ relationships are scheduled, forced and anything but spontaneous. And what relationships they do have are disassociated. Believers have their home bubble, their church bubble, their work bubble, their gym bubble, etc.
The reality of the isolated, but regular church attending Christian explains a sad fact: we almost never do what Hebrews 10:24 commands us to do; that is, “consider how to encourage one another to love and good deeds.” Why? Because when we see each other at church, we don’t understand the multiple contexts the other person is living in. Therefore, we don’t know how to encourage them to love in those other contexts. We don’t even think about them.
- What happens when we try to do good works without love?
- Describe your “relationship bubbles.”
- In which relationship bubbles do you need encouragement to love and good works?
- Are you meeting regularly with other believers?
- “Consider how” means “to make a plan to do.” Make a plan to encourage another believer to love and good works.