March 30, 2015

Commending Others as Christ Does

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the her in whatever she may need from you..." Romans 16:1, 2. My church is full of "sister Phoebes," and I want to work on commending them more. It's not that I haven't thought, "That teenager shows such maturity by giving up a Saturday to work in the kitchen for a church dinner." or "I admire the spiritual strength of the recent widow who goes out alone in a storm to attend a church event." But, as you know, thinking is not saying. I have not always verbalized my commendation when I had opportunity in the past.

Then, I heard a sermon about what Christ said to the church in Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7)  Jesus, who is aware of our sinful acts and shortcomings, started His letter to that church with commendation. Clearly, He knows the good works, too. Although I am not omniscient like Jesus, I am able to commend the good that I see.

The toils, patient endurance, discernment and other admirable characteristics of my Christian sisters are played out before my eyes. Why should I withhold the encouragement that they need? Who benefits if I take their acts of service for granted? How much better it would be if I verbally recognize the God-given faith they possess!

Sometimes, I have such high standards for my Christian sisters that I fail to recognize the daily steps of obedience these women are taking. I forget how far they have come in their Christian journey. My attitude needs to be more like Christ's. He knows our imperfections and loves us in spite of them. He sees and commends the good deeds of sinful people. I pray that I am not like Mrs. Barry in Anne of Green Gables about whom Anne said, "I don't believe God himself would entirely meet with her approval."

There are other pitfalls in my endeavor to be more commending. I must not use words of encouragement as a way to manipulate people. Christ's commendation of the church in Ephesus was not a trick of flattery. On occasion, my husband and I use a good-natured way of asking for help. I ask him to do something I don't enjoy doing by saying, "And, you are so good at it." But commending my Phoebes is not a joke, and it is not sweet-talking women to get them to do what I want.

The passage in Revelation is not all commendation. A "but" is included in verse 4. The church in Ephesus displeased God, and Jesus gives the remedy of repentance.  This points to a flawless commendation from the Lord that all Christians desire. "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." II Corinthians 10:18. Lord, help me to receive your approval and freely give commendation to the Phoebes in my life.


  1. Thank you for this. When my children were younger, I was very diligent to praise them for the smallest bit of progress or act of obedience. Now that they are older, I too often take those things for granted and let them go unnoticed. I think I often do this with the church, too, neglecting to praise those who labor faithfulness in areas big and small. I need reminders like these!

    1. Megan, I thought of the times I took the good grades on your report cards for granted, even though I know you worked hard to do well. Your teacher, who had a broader experience than me, said, "You don't see report cards like this every day." It helped me put your diligence in context.


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