Nobody really likes to be corrected, but the author implores his readers to appreciate words of exhortation.
22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
Exhortation is discussed a few times throughout scripture specifically, but exemplified over and over. I’ve discussed it before in studying Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus, and the Thessalonians (the pastoral books). Exhortation is a necessary element to our discipline and discipleship. Let’s face it, nobody likes to be told they are wrong or need to correct their behavior, but if we seek to understand the importance and necessity of it, we might have a different attitude.
When we look at the definition of Paraklesis the original Greek for exhortation, we read that it is actually a positive word representing reinforcement, encouragement, and support. Usually we see it as something negative: punishment, correction, and being told we are wrong. It is indeed correction and being told we are a bit off, but as followers of Christ, we should want to be corrected when we are not following the path we say we are trying to. I try to look at it as bumper bowling. The bumpers are those people whom God has put around us to keep us in the lane. When the ball hits a bumper, it is bumped back towards the center of the path using its own momentum. I detail it this way so we can understand that it isn’t about completely stopping us, rather guiding our movement. Certainly there are times we must be completely stopped and turned around, but this is when we wind up in the wrong lane altogether and need a “do over”.
If the bowling ball and bumpers had feeling, there would be a little bit of pain involved in the event of a ball hitting the bumper and the bumper pushing back. That bit of friction there would cause some sort of burn and the interaction would leave both feeling uncomfortable. But, when the ball gets to where it is going, both the ball and the bumper rejoice in the success of achieving the goal. What goal is that you say? Well, in this analogy it would be hitting the pins but spiritually I am referring to what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Is that your goal? If you profess it is then you should look forward to being exhorted. When we are exhorted and corrected, it further strengthens and enhances us, making us more effective for God’s Kingdom and His Glory and gives us a better view of the goal by realigning our sights. If we are the ones doing the exhorting, however, we must heed Jesus’ words we find in Matthew 7:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Our “judgment” upon others must be of a holy and uplifting nature, one that creates more disciplined followers of Christ. If we ourselves are weak or flawed in the area that you want to correct someone else in, you might want to think twice about your own problems first. You have an opportunity to exhort yourself! All Godly exhortation must come from the truth revealed in God’s word. The bible exhorts us and helps us realign our walk with God and therefore we must continually read and study His desire for us in this world and learn from His examples of Godly living.