"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (NASB)
Something we need to be aware of is that as Christians, it is our sacred duty to be an encourager. I know that it can be difficult. Many times, we get the reputation that we are prudish people with no sense of humour and that we actually find our enjoyment in telling people that they are doing it all wrong and that they need to do it the right way or that there will be dire consequences. The problem with that is even if that is true, it is a sure-fire way to ensure that the very people who need to hear the truth about how God loves them will not listen to a word we say.
We are very quick to judge and condemn people, but if we do that, we all but render ourselves useless. The band Casting Crowns wrote a song called "Jesus, Friend of Sinners," in which they sing the line, "no one knows what we're for, only what we're against when we judge the wounded." There are many groups that are engaged in that kind of activity (they call it "witnessing" but really it's just being rude). They picket things like the site of the twin towers or soldiers funerals because they have their flat-tire issues that they want to yell about. I suggest that this has done more to harm the cause of Christ in recent history than the Crusades.
The term "encourage" comes from the Greek word "parakaleo," which means to comfort, appeal, entreat, or conciliate. Have you ever thought that someone you were witnessing to really needed to hear the truth? They do! But there is a way to say it that will not only hold their attention, but place the responsibility on them to respond positively. We used to say on the farm, "you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar." In fact, Colossians 3:8 says to put aside "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth."
I once heard the distinction put this way. There were two preachers - one preached real hellfire and brimstone sermons, letting everyone know that that was what we all deserved. The second preached that but then showed how God loves us and doesn't want anyone to have that kind of an end. Which would you rather listen to? And which would be more effective? I think it's pretty clear, personally that the second preacher has the more effective method.
Let us be encouragers. It's what people need.
Gerry @ The Berean Nation