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Pervasive Mutuality – Hebrews 12:12-17

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in discipleship, edification, fellowship, scripture | 5 comments

Pervasive Mutuality – Hebrews 12:12-17

Whenever I talk about mutuality, I tend to focus on a few passages, such as Ephesians 4:7-16 or 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. However, mutuality (the one-another’ing aspect of our lives together in Christ) is actually very pervasive (widespread) in Scripture.

One of those mutuality passages is Hebrews 12:12-17. This passage follows the very famous passage at the beginning of Hebrews 12 in which the author exhorts his readers to set aside distractions and sin and to “look to Jesus.” Next, the readers are encouraged to trust God and his love for them in spite of any “discipline” they may be facing.

After that section on discipling (“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves”), the author writes:

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:12-17 ESV)

From first glimpse, it appears that the author is exhorting each reader to lift up his own drooping hands or strengthen her own weak knees. It seems that each reader is instructed to make straight paths for each one’s own feet. However, as we keep reading, we realize that these commands are much more mutual than that, especially when we get to verse 15.

Although verse 15 in the translation above begins with a command, it is actually in the form of a participle: See[ing] to it that no on fails to obtain the grace of God. And, to make this an even stronger statement, the verb translated “See to it” is the same verb that is normally translated “oversee.” (It’s actually the same form of the verb found in 1 Peter 5:2 when Peter is addressing “elders.”)

Thus, the author is exhorting his readers to “oversee” each other to ensure that no one fails to live in the grace of God, that no “root of bitterness” grows in anyone’s heart, and that no one falls into sexual immorality. As you can tell, these are issues of spiritual oversight, and we are all responsible for “overseeing” each other.

From this passage especially, we can see that the meaning of the verb “oversee” is very close to the meaning of the verb “consider” in this passage (which is another of my favorite when it comes to mutuality):

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… (Hebrews 10:24 ESV)

Yes, it is all of our responsibilities to look into one another’s lives, to help each other follow Jesus Christ, and to help one another grow in maturity together. This is what mutuality among the church is all about.


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  1. 6-5-2013

    When I come to this verse in Hebrews, I usually think of Exodus 17, where Aaron and Hur are holding up the hands of Moses as Israel fights against Amalek:

    “…10So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. …”

  2. 6-5-2013

    Very challenging, thank you.

    Interdependence. Consideration for each other. Oversee each other’s spiritual lives. Care enough to speak truth. Know each other intimately. Be great listeners to people’s hearts so when there is a blind area and they are asking for help (and sometimes when they are not asking)… we will be able to speak right into their situation.

    This does not compete with my thoughts on boundaries. In fact, healthy boundaries gets us to this healthy place where we can speak honest truth instead of falling into patterns of enabling. Where we can choose to become interdependent in a healthy God focused way…. instead of codependent in a forced way.

    It is God’s will and plan for us – to freely give this consideration to each other. Submission not subservience (great post Alan Knox). Not to force it consideration, demand it sooner than you are close enough to have it, grasp for it when people aren’t ready… but to over time, allow Him to grow God focused intimate relationships that we become more and more intertwined as we are closer to the vine.

    For a visual…. I picture branches on a vine. (He is the vine, we are the branches)……. the branches, when they are further away from the vine are all over the place, flimsy, waving, far from each other…… but those branches closest to the vine? There’s NO space between them. The closer and closer they get to the vine, the closer they are to each other. Intertwined so they are a lot stronger. Not waving around flimsy but really really hard to cut because they are so intertwined (cord of 3+)… yet! they are still distinct from each other.

    When there is a God focus… there is a healthy interdependence all based on Jesus. There is a goal of growth in each part (therefore growth in the whole) vs. the unhealthy codependence built on a goal of blame shifting.

    I wish I could do a long term sanctification study on churches that practice & focus on this mutuality, interdependence, journeying together…. and those that don’t make it a primary focus. Maybe the astounding results would get people to believe His Word that shows we do need each other and He wants to use others in our lives. That the Church members are supposed to encourage, admonish, consider.

    We do everything so opposite. We spend so much time trying to admonish & “judge” (good and bad judge) and consider those *outside* the Church. But scripture says opposite. We are supposed to do those things for our brothers & sisters.

    We have too high of expectations for those without His Spirit in them.

    And we have way too low of expectations for those already in His Body.

  3. 6-5-2013

    Excellent word. Everyone practice oversight. One more way the overseers are to be setting the example for everyone to follow. No turf protection. No special calling only a few receive. One more thread woven into the pattern that we are to follow.

  4. 6-5-2013

    How beautiful. I’d never understood v12. Now that I’ve seen “mutuality” in action, I know exactly what it means. Thanks, Alan.

    – Kathleen

  5. 6-9-2013

    Thanks everyone for the comments. It’s quite challenging to think about everyone being involved in this type of “ministry,” but it’s also beautiful when people understand and actually serve one another in this way.