And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. --Hebrews 10:24-26 (NIV)
Rosencrantz was clearly struggling. His glittering little body hung suspended, nearly perpendicular at one edge of the aquarium. Occasionally he wildly flailed his tiny fins in an attempt to right his position and move water across his gills for oxygen. All the while, Gildenstern and Laertes--two of my other fish--swam close at fin in what appeared to be a role of support. The trio swam alongside one another for most of the afternoon until finally, Rosencrantz' body gave out and he floated silently to the surface of the water.
By nature, tetras are community fish. They prefer to live with several of their own species, benefiting from the safety of a school. Christians also benefit from strong communities. We all need someone to swim alongside us in our times of need. When our Christian brothers or sisters find themselves needing additional encouragement or support, some of us don't always respond very well. We become uncomfortable because we don't know what to say or do. We say something hurtful or inappropriate, albeit unintentionally. Sometimes we bail out completely and distance ourselves emotionally and physically from a person.
When I have been the person in need, I have sometimes felt alienated. I have regretfully realized that this is most often my own fault. At times I have taken it personally when people have responded poorly to my situation. I would get upset with people who meant well, but said or did something that I perceived as hurtful. When it is my turn to be the one to offer encouragement or support, I'm sure I have made mistakes as well. I try my best to simply swim alongside, but even that isn't fool-proof. The point is that we all try because that is what it means to be part of a Christian community, and that is one of the ways in which we can love each other.
Because God is not physically present in our lives at this moment, each member of the Christian community serves as an extension of his love. Within a body of believers, we can always find someone to give us a hug when we're having a bad day, godly advice in a difficult situation, or a voice of encouragement for our walk with God. Every one of us needs to participate in this form of Christian fellowship so that we are available to love one another in unique ways on a daily basis. We model Christ's love best when we are swimming alongside our brothers and sisters, offering encouragement.
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