Yesterday, congregations around the world all discussed the article “Keep On Encouraging One Another Each Day.” It was a wonderful article discussing how, in a world so full of critics and negativity and so void of positive reinforcement, we can and should imitate Jesus Christ’s wonderful example of encouraging each other. Even after he caught the 12 disciples repeatedly arguing about who was greatest among them, instead of becoming short-tempered and critical, he found mild illustrations to get the point across. The article also acknowledged that many people today were raised in a family environment that was also very critical so that when they become adults, they also do not know how to commend and offer positive reinforcement.
Although several in the congregation mentioned that Satan is a major critic both of God and humans, it dawned on me that he and certain nefarious human characters can “encourage” wrong action. For example, Satan “encouraged” (and emboldened) Eve to disobey and eat fruit from the tree she was pointedly told not to avoid. Similarly, peer pressure can “encourage” youth to engage in things that are wrong and dangerous.
So how do we differentiate between good and bad encouragement? Before answering that, what makes something “wrong”? Is a certain thing wrong because of social norms? Not ultimately, because that is just other people talking and norms vary from culture to culture and even era to era. Well then is it wrong because the Bible says so? Perhaps, however some may argue that the Bible is just a rule book. So what really makes something wrong? The answer is that it hurts our God's feelings and the feelings of others. Now we are at the root of the matter. Our relationship with God is contingent on making his heart glad. Proverbs 27:11
So then, good, positive encouragement would promote healthy wholesome living and obedience to God’s direction. It would also consider the feelings of others. (Some have argued that God already knows how we act and feel and therefore do not need to do anything. The scripture cited in the third paragraph debunks such a notion.) In contrast, the “encouragement” to do wrong is actually emboldening us to disobey God.