|Many commentators notice at least one break within the letter of 1 John. The apostle has a lot of pointed instruction to offer. But in our reading today, he pauses, albeit for three verses. His pause allows him to break away from telling the spiritual demands of the Christian life. It’s a brief moment of encouragement.|
Encouragement is a blessing. It is a gift we have to offer others.
Your encouragement may be simple. I like to remind my congregations to smile more. Research suggests smiling can reduce stress and trick your brain into feeling happy. It’s also contagious. So, let your smile be an encouragement.
Then there are times you share in conversation with people you know. An empathetic ear knows when it’s time to offer some encouragement. You can often tell when someone seems “off,” right? There’s your encouragement opportunity.
I did a youth event once that included a special project. Everyone who participated had a brown paper bag with their name written on it. Throughout the event, each person was to write an encouraging note to everyone else and place the note in their bag. By the time our event finished, everyone had a bag full of notes. Flash forward two years later. We did the same project. One of the young people who first participated shouted, “I still have all my old letters!” Another said the same.
For the apostle John, his encouragement acknowledged the spiritual walk of his readers. As he writes to “little children,” fathers” and “young people,” he knows their faith. His harsh words are not directed at them but at those who continue to hold a selfish, false sense of faith.
Now, we don’t grow in faith for others to recognize us. But it can be a blessing when someone does. John’s notions of children, youth and fathers could relate to spiritual development. That is, there is a development of faith that happens over time as we mature. In that case, think of how each person might respond to John.
The encouragement might bless the child with assurance. Someone they know and love is watching over them. They are not alone as they grow in faith. Young people might begin to see their life taking shape through John’s encouragement. They say they don’t want to listen to us. But we all know they do. We did. As we get older, we wonder if anyone is paying attention to anything we have to say. John’s encouragement might be the reminder a father needs. That their words and faith matter to an entire generation of faith.
Our world can be vile and discouraging, to say the least. Thoughtful, loving encouragement can break through that. We Christians like to sing, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” What a great affirmation of God’s encouragement to us. Now, take that and offer people the strength and courage they need to face each day.