“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”
I might be taking this passage out of context just a little bit in order to justify my thoughts here, but the overarching meaning and application remains the same.
The holiday season is nearly upon us! Everything is covered in a brisk and sparkling white blanket of snow outside; presents are beginning to accumulate under the tree; bank accounts are crying out in despair; and there’s the prospect of having a full house, overflowing with family and friends…! Yay! :D
Well, call me Mr. Scrooge, but social gatherings have never been my cup of tea. When I’m in situations that call for social interaction this time of year, you can generally find me off in a corner somewhere brooding over my failed plot to cancel Christmas. I’ve always held a greater appreciation for opportunities of solitude over chances to mingle. So as someone who enjoys being away from people, I have a difficult time pushing myself to get together with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We often have evenings of fellowship and prepared meals with one another, game nights and Bible studies where time is set aside for people to grow in solidarity… And it’s hard! I like to be lazy; talking is laborious; I enjoy my me-time; I don’t mesh well with the other personalities present; I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now…
And let me tell you, we humans are exceptionally gifted at convincing ourselves to do the things we really want to do. For instance, it’s pretty easy for me to validate my desires to be alone, as the scriptures are full of admonitions for quiet alone-time with God in moments of introspection. After all, it’s said that the true test of a man’s character is observing what he does when no one is watching. Likewise, God shows an appreciation for the implementation of a private prayer life. (Matt 6:6) There are several examples we can look to where even Jesus required a moment’s reprieve from the world in order to recharge in prayer. (Matt 14:23), (Mark 1:35), (Luke 5:16)
We are to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
We need to stop and recognize that God is in control. (Psalm 46:10)
When we are feeling distraught, we ought to remember the words to that hymn we often sing in worship, “Take it to the lord in prayer.”
Many many examples for us to validate taking personal time to grow. That said, we do have to be wary that an idle mind is also the Devil’s playground. I can draw a halo atop my head and put my hands together coyly as if praying, but I can’t forget to hide my little devil tail under my white robes! The flip-side of the coin is that it’s incredibly easy to sin when no one is looking. After all, the true test of a man’s character is observing what he does when no one is watching. Funny how that adage can carry two very different sentiments depending on the context.
With this in mind, it’s definitely advantageous to surround ourselves with God’s own to keep us accountable. Introspective recognition certainly arises out of moments alone with God, but we need our brothers and sisters around us to truly grow as the Church, and they need us! Iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) We need to bear one another’s burdens and be watchful for one another, being supportive in moments of transgression. (Gal 6:1-2) The Lord also seems to work through the very Church we often try to find excuses to forsake, so we can very well miss out on answered prayers when our hearts are troubled. As much as we might kick and scream when it comes to instances of fellowship, it’s one of the best things for us.
As an aside, I detest board games. I say that, and I’ll certainly kick and scream in resistance before finally relenting to join in, but then I’ll almost always enjoy myself in the interactions I have with those I participate.
It’s the same thing when it comes to fellowship events with the Church; I’ll bemoan internally as opportunities present themselves to gather. But you know what? I’ll find that I really enjoy myself once I thrust myself into the fray. And that’s largely because it’s a heavy reminder that I’m unconditionally loved by God, where a good chunk of that love is felt directly through the interactions of His people.
Despite the great groan of internal despair to the prospect of having to socialize, I know in my heart that the concept “the Church” means an obligation to be apart of something larger than just myself, while at the same time prioritizing my very needs. That obligation is something that I can look forward to because I love my church family, where every exposure I get with them works in me towards spiritual growth.
And that love is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
I’m not the Church by myself, nor can I ever be the Church by myself. Brothers and sisters, WE are The Church. Being a Christian does demand moments of self-examination with God, just the two of us, but that ought to work in tandem towards the growth of the Church, not hinder it. Let’s remember that we are apart of God’s Kingdom, a citizenship that gives us family in abundance. And keep in mind that family is very intrusively apart your personal life!
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion…” (Romans 12:9-16)
The wisdom of God’s word knows no limit.