The ability to encourage comes from a root of love. God is love – what better reason for being able to love one another? Indeed, we have no option – it is a command of Jesus: ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 13:34). His love was demonstrated so vividly in being prepared even to die for us that our relationship with God the Father might be restored.
Love does not equate with ‘like’. It is inevitable that we do not like all people with the same intensity – we might even dislike some! Love is different. We may not like all men but we can love them, even our enemies (Matt 5:44). Even in a team we may not like all the other members, but for the ‘sake of the higher good’ we can still love them.
This is a strange word. I once heard it described as two fellows in one ship – they have to get on and work together if the boat is not going to capsize! More seriously, koinonia (Gk - community, joint participation, communion, sharing and intimacy) is at the heart of the early church where people went from house to house daily, ‘continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2:42). They also shared their possessions freely (Acts 4:32). Such an expectation of relationship is a strong basis on which to build a team.
You have to like someone to be affectionate! Here emotions are being expressed with the accompanying transparency and vulnerability. So in this word are hidden qualities such as trust and unselfishness, good marks of a mature team.
Although the ESV translates this word ‘sympathy’ I prefer the word ‘compassion’, as translated elsewhere. Closely allied with mercy, compassion speaks of an unselfishness that wants to empathise with someone in need. It is possible to minister to someone out of ‘professionalism’ ie from a skill base. But ministry that comes with compassion is not just about getting help for someone but it includes standing alongside them like a stake beside a vulnerable sapling that is being battered by the storms of life. Compassion gets ‘under the surface’ to the heart of an individual. In the context of a team it allows the members to look out for one another’s welfare – in other words to be together as one.
Next time we will look at some of the practical ways in which team members can ‘look out for one another’, giving support and encouragement.