Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Serious weight lifters use what are called “spotters” when they are trying to achieve new goals. The “spotter” does not need to have the strength of the person being assisted. The “spotter” is there when or if the lifter cannot accomplish a goal and could be injured without someone’s added strength and assistance. Even the most independent or arrogant lifter knows that it can be fatal to try for new goals solo.
Independence is the healthy goal of every parent for their child; it also seems to be the innate goal of every child. Learning to ride a bicycle can boarder on terrifying for some children, but none of them want Mommy or Daddy running beside them for rest of their life. They struggle to learn to balance and ultimately take pride in their independence.
Independence can become so important in our lives that we forget the essential role of interdependence. Martin Luther lifted up the richness of mutuality; he identified it as a way that God can come to us. The fancy phrase Luther used was “the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.”
I like the term “mutual.” The word lifts up the fact that interdependence is a relationship when some times we are a giver, and other times we are a receiver. There are simply times that no matter how strong we may be, we need a “spotter.” That person is God in our life at that time, and when the roles are reversed, we are God in the life of another person.
An oft forgotten example of being an essential enabler is the battle with the Amalekites in the wilderness, reported in Exodus 17. This is the first appearance of Joshua in the Bible. Moses assigns him to lead the Israelites in battle. Moses promises Joshua that he would stand on a hill with his staff over his head and that Joshua would be victorious.
Moses had a problem. As long as he held the staff above his head, God’s people would be winning. When Moses put down his arms, they would start to lose. Holding the staff above his head for an extended became, as you can imagine, an impossible task.
At this point in the drama two folk are assigned responsibilities: Aaron and Hur. They had gone to the mountain top with Moses. As his arms began to get tired, they got him a rock on which to sit. That is what I would call an important but insignificant task. People would later write songs about Joshua winning the battle against Jericho, but I have yet to hear a song about Aaron and Hur getting a rock for Moses to sit on.
Time passes and Moses still has a problem keeping his arms in the air. Every time he drops his arms, the enemies start winning. Obviously Moses needed someone to hold up his arms. The two characters of rock carrying fame, hold up Moses’ arms and ultimately the battle is won. As great as Moses was, he still needed others to accomplish the task.
Each of us have battles to fight and jobs to do. Some may be obviously related to what we regard as Christian tasks; others may not. Some may be glamorous while others are dull. But basically, we can have tasks which we need encouragement and strength to accomplish.
RCA Records once released a recording by Bobby Bare which was titled, “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life.” I can’t remember ever hearing it, but I know there are days when I feel like I need that sort of encouragement and direction to accomplish what needs to be done . . . a divine drop kick through the day. I imagine there are times when you could have the same feeling. A primary source for that strength and direction can be others. Each of us could also be called to the role of Aaron and Hur, supporting and stirring up one another.
We are not created and we are not intended to “go it alone” in life. When Jesus called disciples, it was a group of twelve. When the seventy were sent out by Jesus it was two by two. When Paul ventured forth on his three missionary trips, it was always with at least one other Christian. The prophets of the Old Testament are often thought of as solitary individuals, but close study has shown that in reality they were a part of a cluster. God’s people have always fulfilled their responsibilities with the support of others and by supporting others.
Mutual conversation and consolation is not a gimmick phrase or pop psychology. It is the way God works in our lives. When we need more than human strength or renewal, God can send it through humans, and when others need the touch of God in their life, we may be the ones called to bring it. One of the crucial manifestations of maturity in both a person’s life and a person’s faith is when the person has grown beyond independence to the richness of interdependence.
God, you have placed us in community so that through us and others you can touch lives. Help us to see your potential to touch us through others, and, to be open to be your presence in the lives of others. Amen.
— Pastor Mueller