If you have had any church experience in your lifetime, you might be cringing right now at the very thought of the word. It is such a scary word, because it has been so misunderstood and therefore misused... and the misuse has caused so much abuse.
The word conjures up, for most, a word picture of someone sticking their finger in your face with a very disappointed and angry look on their face. This is how it has often been used and it is no wonder that word is so scary for us.
But my how we have missed the heart of this beautiful word.
The word in the New Testament is parakaleo. It literally means "to come alongside". True exhortation is NEVER to be done with a finger in the face, but with an arm around the shoulder.
Exhortation should be done in such a way that the one being exhorted, walks away from the conversation knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are loved, and praising God that someone loved them enough to have spoken hard words with such encouragement.
Displaying such an attitude in difficult situations will go a long way towards fostering peace and unity in the church. Creating an environment that removes fear and replaces it with a spirit of acceptance and love... Oh what a beautiful community is potentially ours if we would express such love in true exhortation.