Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:11 —
What’s interesting about 1 Thessalonians 5:11 is that Paul is telling the people to do something that they are, in fact, already doing!
That’s like your baseball coach saying, “Choke up on the bat and keep your eye on the ball, like you’ve been doing for the last ten games.”
Or like your piano teacher saying, “Curve your fingers and sit up straight on the bench, like you’ve been doing for the last four years.”
And maybe your mom and dad have said something similar, too, like, “Speak kindly to your sister, especially in the mornings as you know mornings aren’t her most agreeable times. You’ve already been doing this, I know, but please continue!”
Why in the world would Paul tell the Thessalonians to keep encouraging one another and building each other up if they’re already doing it? For the same reason coaches and teachers and parents remind us to keep doing the good things that we’re already doing: those good behaviors are producing good results, so we need to keep doing them.
We need to remember not to forget!
For example, if you hit the ball out of the park every time you remember to choke up on the bat, then certainly, choking up on the bat would be a good thing to keep doing.
And if you’re able to play beautiful music with curved fingers and proper posture, then of course your teacher will want you to keep those specifics in mind when sitting down at the piano.
Similar reminders work just as well in our families: if mornings go smoothly especially when you remember to speak kindly to your sister, then it is worth reminding you to use gentle words.
So it is good that Paul lovingly reminds the people to keep encouraging one another and building each other up even though it’s something they’re already doing well.
And it’s a great reminder for us, too, that growing stronger in the faith—no matter what we’re trying to improve—takes time, effort and focus. We must keep on growing.
That said, how can we get even better at encouraging each other and building each other up in our families? Awareness.
Paul helped the Thessalonians to be aware of what it was they were already doing well, and he told them to keep doing it.
In order to do the same thing in our families, let’s think about the definitions of “encourage” and “building up.”
While we typically think of encouragement as something we do that cheers up or motivates someone, the word here means that and more. For example, if we are hiking in the woods and we see that someone is veering off the correct path, we might “encourage” him to join us again on the right trail.
Similarly, taking the time to intentionally encourage a family member might mean cheering him up when he didn’t make the team, motivating her to try the song again after struggling with it at rehearsal, or inspiring him to have a potentially difficult discussion with a heartbroken friend.
“To build up” was a term originally used when referring to the construction of a building. In this case, Paul likely meant the phrase as an analogy to the “construction” of a person’s character.
People of Christian character are noted for continuous growth in such areas as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).
So, in short, encouraging or “building up” our family members means doing whatever we can to help one another develop deeper Christian virtues.
Have you done a good job of encouraging each member of your family? What have you done lately to encourage well each of your family members?
Praying that we’ll remember not to forget to encourage one another,
P.S. This is an excerpt from our new book Undivided: Living FOR and Not Just WITH One Another.