Motivate: Five Minute Friday {}

Photo by Nathan Shipps on Unsplash

It is time for Five Minute Friday (where I free write for five minutes and post the results for the world to see). Today’s word is motivate. My free write lies between the slashes (//).

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Heb 10:24 NLT).

“Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus” (Act 15:39 NLT).

//Warning: as an avid fan of words, I am totally geeking out right now!

The Greek word for motivate is paroxysmos. And it is fascinating. First,(and I am taking some liberties here) the word is basically a contronym, meaning that, depending upon context, the word could be its own opposite. Further, the Bible only uses this word twice, and in each context, it is the opposite meaning; hence, the two verses above.

In Hebrews 10:24, the word means to give a reason to act or to give an incentive to do something, in this case, perform acts of love and good works. While the author of Hebrews is unknown, it is believed from context to have been written anywhere from AD 60 to AD 69, possibly after the death of Paul, Peter, and James, the brother of Christ.

This book rallies the church, emphasizing the supremacy of Christ over the Old Testament Covenants and comes at a time when faith could have been fizzling out or at least stalling. The newness had worn off and persecution was rampant. Yet the author urges believers to not stop meeting together and to keep motivating each other toward acts of love and good works. It is a book of encouragement in the faith.

But in Acts 15:39, the word means contention or violent anger. Paul and Barnabas had been ministry partners during Paul’s first missionary journey. In this passage, the first missionary journey has ended, they have just sorted out the issue of Gentile circumcision at the Jerusalem Conference and Paul is getting ready to embark upon his second missionary journey. Except Paul and Barnabas cannot agree on whether to bring Mark (the author of the gospel) along.

In fact, their disagreement is so contentious they are forced to part ways. They come to a stalemate. It cannot be worked out. Paul joins forces with Silas, and Barnabas sets off in a different direction with Mark.

In these two specific contexts, the word had seemingly opposite meanings. One means to encourage, the other, to fight.

But isn’t this the case with so many things in the Bible? God is full of mercy, yet God is also full of wrath. God saves by grace, yet God also executes judgment. Paul tells us we are justified by faith alone, not by works, but James says that faith without works is dead.

Which is true?

The answer is yes.//

Both are true! It’s like a coin with two (or three) sides. We may not realize it, but we see duality all the time, even our in words like left (meaning remaining or departed), screen (meaning to view or block from view), and cleave (hold firmly or break apart).  Paroxysmos can mean to inspire or to irritate.

But can’t inspiration be irritating? Just as irritation can be inspiring? Have you ever been encouraged to do good to the point of frustration (ASPCA commercials, anyone?)? Has something annoying ever caused you to do good (buying something new for a co-worker so they will stop complaining about the old?)?

Nature is full of duality. So is God, who created all natures. We cannot apply black and white filters to a world with so much color lest we miss out.