The Church loves to talk about “the gifts”, particularly the flashy ones. But what about the others? Like, the gift of encouragement, for example? Have I ever considered what intentional encouragement might look like?
Well, it’s really the gift of exhortation. And the Greek word for this gift is Parakaleo, meaning “to beseech, call upon, to encourage and strengthen”.
Ultimately, encouragement is uncomfortable. It’s a bit more than merely complimenting that new girl Katie’s earrings. Does affirming Katie’s fashion sense really strengthen her? And am I sacrificing anything in doing so?
As a new white member of an intentionally transcultural church, I’ve recently wrestled with God in seeking His way to encourage my black brothers and sisters amidst highly charged times. My church deems ourselves “socially conscious”. What does that mean? My heart hurts when I watch the news. I regularly pray for the families who’ve lost loved ones, and racism makes me angry. But must I post about it on my social media pages?
I recently prayed and asked God to reveal to me the fruitfulness in posting #blacklivesmatter onto my Facebook page. Immediately after I prayed, I received a message on the worship team GroupMe chat from one of the white bassists on the team,
“Family, if you can, take a moment today to pray that God would intervene in the continual corruptness of our society today…my heart breaks for the family of Terence Crutcher, for our nation, and for our African American brothers and sisters, especially those in our congregation and worship team…I love you all and I’m grieving with you.”
At that, I suddenly saw that the silent white Christian causes just as much pain as the loud-mouthed bigot. I posted a Daily News article strewn with complimentary characteristics quoted by Crutcher’s family – a black man who simply once was alive, and is now no longer alive. I pleaded with God to teach me to mourn with those who mourn, to grant me the humility to hurt alongside them, and that He may clothe them in the incomprehensible peace that can only come from the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.