Christian Education

Christian Education

Jan 22, 2015

Christian Education

by Andrew J. Camenga








Dont Quit - Do It


Have you ever played “Provoke Thy Sister”? It is a game I played far too often while growing up. I described this game a few years ago:

The game was going well. We’d been playing for a little bit, and I finally moved the last needed piece into place. All six of the points in my home area were covered, they had a piece on the bar, and I was ready to taunt the other player with the fact that as long as I kept my home covered I was the only player who could move. Finishing my turn, I handed the dice to the other player while saying, “Here are the dice. Oh, wait, you can’t move. I might as well go again.” After a couple of rounds, my taunting had the desired result: the board and all the pieces went flying across the room. I’d won the game and was happy about that.

In retrospect, the game I was playing wasn’t backgammon, it was “Provoke Thy Sister.”

I’m not alone. Most people know how to make others mad; we instinctively know how to provoke. Sometimes we talk about having our buttons pushed or pushing another’s buttons. That language reveals something about us — as we live with other people, we learn what makes them tick: how they respond to circumstances, areas that are sensitive to exposure, etc. We also learn that we can use this knowledge to behave in ways that “cause” predictable results.

While when we talk about provoking others, the first image that jumps to mind is causing anger. But, the predictable result does not have to be anger. I have talked with many people who reminisce about a teacher who could be easily distracted from the purpose of the class. Sometimes, the stories talk about discovering a teacher’s favorite topic and asking questions about that topic. Sometimes, it is finding something else that drives a teacher to distraction and exploiting it. The goal of the students was to cause the teacher to focus on something other than the topic at hand. For some Sabbath school teachers and some public school teachers, this was an easy job. The students behaved in a way to provoke the teacher to distracted teaching.

That kind of provocation is what the letter to the Hebrews means when it says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (10:24, KJV). The command is straightforward — look at each other and carefully think about what you can do to cause them to respond with love, to respond with deeds that God would call good. As we use English today, “provoke” is almost inextricably linked with anger. So modern translations of the verse substitute phrases like “spur one another on,” “stir up one another,” “stimulate one another,” “motivate one another,” and even “encourage one another.”

God has given us the ability to watch others and to learn what we can do to help others respond. We can twist that ability and “encourage” anger and hostility. We can also use it as He intended to encourage love and good deeds. In the verse quoted above, we’re told that God’s desire is for us to use this ability to “cause” love and good deeds.

In other words, God has called us to act in ways that encourage others to change for the better. We are called to be deliberate about making this happen. Deliberate-ness is a quality that God wants us to have. Don’t drift through life and hope that everything works out okay. Be deliberate — use the gifts, abilities, and insights God has given you to think about others. In Christ’s love, help your brothers and sisters in Christ grow. Help them grow in evangelism, nurture, discipleship, and stewardship.

(this article based heavily on an article written for the July 2010 Sabbath Recorder)

On a personal note: It has been a delight to serve Seventh Day Baptists for the last 15 years as the executive director of the Board of Christian Education. Seeing your joy in serving Jesus and others has been a consistent encouragement. Thank you for the opportunity. May God use all of us to further His Kingdom wherever we are sent.

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