Thorns, iron, and companions
12-14So watch your step, friends. Make sure there's no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it's still God's Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn't slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we're in this with Christ for the long haul.
We often have others in our lives that we have assumed some responsibility for "watching over" their lives, their work, or their general well-being. This can be because we are a parent, a supervisor, or just a good friend. Today, we consider some very stern words that should get our attention - both as ones who are "watching over" and as those who are "watched over".
There is a warning to take daily "precautions" to ensure that the steps we take are on course and free of things that will "trip us up". The idea that we have to "make sure" that there are no little things in our beliefs that can trip us up is not always a common focus for believers today. We find that believers come to Christ, embracing as "much" of Christ and his teachings as they are "comfortable" with. If something causes a little discomfort, we reject it - justifying it with ideas such as, "That must not be for us today" or "That was okay for them, but it doesn't make sense in today's culture".
Whenever we limit our understanding of God by what we allow or disallow into our belief system, we create little opportunities for deception, compromise, and a lack of spiritual growth. It is always a good thing to take what we believe and compare it with the resources we have at our disposal - the Word of God, the Holy Spirit resident within us, and our conscience. These three things work together to provide us with what we need to ensure that we are not embracing thoughts, attitudes, or perceptions that are untrue, harmful, or sinful in any manner.
Look at what we are instructed in this passage - watch YOUR step, make sure there is NO evil unbelief, keep EACH OTHER on your toes, and keep your grip on what you STARTED out with. The idea is that of vigilance. It takes a lot of effort to be aware of what we are allowing to affect our beliefs - there are so many inroads for the things that affect us. I am encouraged to note that our writer did not see us as "standing alone" in this process, though. He reminds us that it a thing that we do TOGETHER.
We are placed in a body of believers in order to help us to grow up into mature believers, complete in every way. My brothers and sisters in Christ act as tools to help me grow in Christ - some skillfully directing me toward areas where I need change, others encouraging me in areas where change has already occurred, and still others working on the same things I am. Whenever we take ourselves out of that place of accountability, we impede our growth. We are in a place where things of this world can begin to affect us, making us susceptible to being "tripped up" by sinful desires.
The body of Christ is the local church, and by extension, your small group that you might be involved with (a group of other believers, close to you, that you have committed to study with). We may not "like" everyone there, or even appreciate that God likes them!!! Yet, they are there for a purpose. God knew we could not walk out this journey alone - so he gave us each other! Sometimes, the ones within the body we have the hardest time accepting, being around, or receiving anything from are those we need to learn the most from. They serve as tools to expose some of the "rough edges" in our own character that God needs to work on. So, the next time you think you don't need that person - think again.
We are also given those we work with, those we associate with by proximity - in other words, those that cross our path frequently, but we don't potentially share the same beliefs (unbelievers). Sometimes, we don't see the potential in those relationships - but if we look close enough, we can find it. I have had more of my own habits, faults, and sharp edges exposed by some unbelievers than I have my fellow believers!
We don't walk alone - remember to consider each relationship for its ultimate worth - iron sharpens iron, thorns prick, and two make the journey less tedious. You may find yourself with a whole lot of iron or thorns right now. If you do, it is likely because you have need of that. Just remember, there is also someone divinely placed in your life to walk alongside to make the journey less tedious, as well. You don't walk alone!