I used to think that the command to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves” was just another church rule, that missing church on a Sunday or not even going to church at all was a sin and another reason for God to get mad at me.
As I got older I realized this view was both immature and short-sighted. Nonetheless, I still couldn’t understand the reasoning behind what appeared to be an obsession that Christians had with church attendance. It had nothing to do with salvation so why all the fuss?
With time I realized that all of God’s “rules” were given for our benefit. God doesn’t make laws for the sake of laws or to give us something to check off our to-do list.
Commands such as “let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Heb. 13:4), are not because God is a kill-joy and doesn’t want us to have any fun. Quite the contrary, actually. God knows how much harder it will be to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with our spouse if life before marriage was wrought with promiscuity.
“The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7) was not written because God doesn’t want us to have nice things. God knows that to live a life bogged down by debt is not the life of freedom He has called us to.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” (Matthew 6:19,20). Why? Because God wants us live like paupers and not enjoy our life? Obviously not. God knows that everything here on earth will never bring true satisfaction the way the things of God will.
So what’s the deal with church? Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but I didn’t really really grasp the “church thing” until a few years ago. A friend of mine had been chronically ill for months and wasn’t working. In the time that she was bedridden, things like keeping up her apartment, staying on top of finances, eating healthy food, and all of the daily life stuff we do without thinking about had all been cast aside.
When she was finally able to come back to work for a few hours a day, it proved challenging. Getting up to an alarm, getting ready, and getting to work at the scheduled time were hard. Add to that, her new eating requirements dictated learning to cook and source healthy food in a completely different way than how she’d always done it.
I remember watching in amazement as people from her church rallied around her and stepped in to help her get back on her feet. One person came every week to help her straighten out her finances. Someone else came at different times and helped her get her apartment in order. Other people helped with car repairs and rides when the car needed fixing. Others simply offered a listening ear when some days felt overwhelming.
Slowly but surely, like a baby fawn finding its legs for the first time, she started to stand, and not just stand, but function again. And eventually the functioning turned to thriving beyond where she had been before her illness.
It’s no secret that the Church isn’t perfect, but when we get it right, it’s amazing. Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves is not a rule for the sake of a rule. God knows we are created for mutual edification, for relationships, to not do life alone. You are not an island. I am not an island, much as I’d like to think that I am.
As I look back over my life at times of great sorrow and trial, the natural inclination of friends and family was to come alongside me and help me get my feet back underneath me. Sometimes it was bringing meals so I didn’t have to think about doing the one thing I dislike the most. Other times, it was a phone call to check on me or someone stopping me and saying they’ve been praying for me. I could write a whole essay on what a precious commodity the prayers of other believers are on behalf of each other.
Being in community with other believers is not a suggestion. It’s a command of scripture because God created us to need one another. That’s where we grow, get encouragement, are strengthened and where we can then return the favor to others.
The simple truth is this: We are not an island unto ourselves. Being with people we have Jesus in common with is not a rule to be followed but a gift to be cherished.