In previous posts we’ve looked at the importance of coming to “know” God. We’ve looked at some of the opening verses of the letter from James and seen that Christians need to ask for God’s help to see their lives and in particular their suffering and hardship from God’s point of view. Doing so will enable a Christian to learn, to grow and to mature as a disciple of Jesus.
That is only one of the essential elements needed for a Christian to grow.
What are some of the others?
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us one:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Christian faith cannot be lived out alone or independently from other Christians. We need each other for encouragement, for help, for advice, for instruction, for correction and to balance out our various strengths and weaknesses.
Jesus himself said:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
The implication, we can presume, is that one single Christian on their own isn’t what Jesus had in mind.
This need for us to gather together seems particularly pertinent at this time, when for the most part we are unable to do so.
Some Christians argue that the need to gather together takes priority over the government’s instructions to separate ourselves, presumably based on the approach taken by the early church that Christians “should obey God rather than human beings” when human authorities order us to do the opposite of what God commands (see Acts 5:17-42).
However in the current situation it seems clear to me that Christians have a responsibility to look out for the safety of others, particularly those most at risk from Covid 19. While God does command us to meet together, I do not think he would want us to do so in a way that could put other people’s lives at risk.
As Christians there are some things the value of which we don’t truly appreciate until they’re gone. Is the ability to meet together in safety something that until now we’ve taken for granted?
Perhaps this time of necessary separation is an opportunity for us to think about what’s really important about being together as disciples of Jesus. Before lockdown, how did we spend our time together? Making endless small talk? Arguing over trivial matters? Gossiping about each other?
How much time did we spend truly opening up to each other about our lives, our concerns, our weaknesses and our failures? How much time did we spend serving each other? How many people were we able to turn to when we needed help or advice or wanted to confess to something we’d done?
Before lockdown, how many Christians did you know to whom you could be completely open and honest about your doubts, your questions, your mistakes or your most shameful sins without fear that they would reject you, gossip about you or seek to remove you from the church?
And, if the answer is more than zero, how often did you have those sorts of conversations?
Christians cannot encourage and build each other up if we never get past the point of simply sharing small talk and socialising together. May the remaining time in lockdown give us a chance to plan ahead and decide how to make best use of our time together.