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Loving Your Neighbor Well

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Prudence

Last week, I shared some thoughts from Scripture about ways to handle the current situation.  Though likely helpful to many of you, it was pretty generic and could be taken a few different ways depending on what you already believed about the coronavirus situation.  This week, I want to be a bit more pointed. You may not agree with me on what I am about to say, and that is fine. However, I want to share some thoughts again from Scripture and apply them to what we are currently seeing.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  The current situation has put a lot of people in difficult positions, particularly churches and church leaders.  Should we have services or cancel? Should we encourage people to stay home or to attend? I’ve heard some argue for the continuation of services with the idea that to cancel or not attend would be a response in fear.  I’ve even heard/seen some thoughts floating around that God will protect those who attend worship services for “not forsaking the assembling.” If that is you this morning, let me take a minute to share some thoughts.

God never promises to save those who ignore sound advice.  After the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam became king.  When trying to decide how he would reign, I Kings 12 tells us Rehoboam consulted two groups of advisors.  One group, the older, encouraged him to lighten up on the labor and taxes his father Solomon had enforced.  The younger group encouraged Rehoboam to lead the kingdom into heavier taxation. Rehoboam listened to the younger crowd which angered the people and led to a split in the kingdom, the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.  Wisdom would have prevented this.

The church is not the building.  Throughout the New Testament, the word “church” is used for the assembly of God’s people.  What is always absent in the description, however, is a physical building. When the word “church” is used, it’s always a description of God’s people wherever they are.  In the New Testament, they were usually meeting in someone’s house. The beautiful thing about worship is that it can happen anywhere God’s people gather: online, in a home, or under a tree!

Not forsaking the assembly is not missing a church service.  Hebrews 10:25 is often quoted in times like these, encouraging Christians “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some...”  While I admire the dedication of many who would come any time the doors are open regardless of circumstances, I don’t believe that is the writer’s intent.  We could actually make a case to translate the verse this way: “Stop neglecting meeting together…” It seems that the writer is actually chastising a group of people who have just stopped gathering altogether.  He is not writing to people to keep them from missing any service at all, not matter what their reason. Obviously, I’m not advocating playing fast and loose with this. There are a lot of unnecessary reasons to miss a gathering as well, and a habitual absence from gathering with God’s people breeds problems for the individual (which is actually why the writer warns about this if you keep reading the rest of the chapter).

This is the longest article I’ve ever written at Woodsfield.  What am I saying? I guess I’m trying to help folks understand that any cancellations, any decisions by individuals to stay at home and worship, are legitimate given the current situation.  You do not need to feel guilty for not being at the building; you and I are staying home out of concern for our neighbor and the public health. Also, this is temporary.  When this ends, I have every confidence we’ll be back together—all of us—worshipping God in our building.  What an awesome celebration that will be! In the meantime, let’s do what we can to join together, protect the vulnerable in our community, and stay home for the immediate future.  Join us online with our live streaming on Facebook, or seek a small group (less than 10) out to worship with Sunday mornings. We’ll be together again soon!

Check out this video below of a community coming together.
Balcony Singing

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