Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25
Months ago, when I first became a staff member at my church, I noticed a problem very early on in churches all across America:
In fact, I wrote a blog post about it entitled, A Church Divided Cannot Stand.
We are now seeing the results of this disunity in the American church. People arguing and leaving the church over things that have nothing to do with church theology. Churches all over the country have lost members. The church is getting harsh opposition in many states from both Christians and non-Christians for re-opening their doors.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
When the book of Hebrews was written, the church was getting severely persecuted. This is evident by Hebrews 10:32-34:
Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.
These verses are evident that book of Hebrews was written for Christians going through persecution. The author of Hebrews speaks very boldly of remaining in the faith during tough times. In fact, all of Hebrews 11 talks of great heroes of the faith, the hard trials they endured, and even the death and torture many of them faced.
And yet, through all this talk of trials and persecution, nestled away in Hebrews 10:24-25 are the verses saying,
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Unfortunately, this verse has mostly been used as a guilt-inducing way for preachers to make people go to church every Sunday. But this isn't what this verse means.
If you go back to the Greek, the word "neglect" (or egkataleipó) means, "To abandon, forsake, or desert." So when the author of Hebrews says, "Let's not neglect our meeting together, as some people do," he is saying, "Let's not abandon fellowship over disunity, fear, or persecution like some people do." It's also very clear from the Greek word episunagógé, or meeting together, that this is a PHYSICAL gathering of believers.
Basically, the author of Hebrews is pleading with people to physically fellowship with each other even when it is scary. Even when the unknowns are great. Even when there is talk of persecution.
"Why though?" You might ask. Why is this fellowship so important that we should gather together even when it's scary or uncomfortable?
God created us to be social. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! - Psalm 133:1
Jesus asks us to pray as a group. Jesus said it straight from His own lips, "For where two or three are gathered in My name [meeting together as My followers], I am there among them." - Matthew 18:20 (AMP)
We are supposed to encourage other people. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. - Hebrews 10:24
We are commanded to help others. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2
We each have a spiritual gift that is meant to lift others up. (All of 1 Corinthians 12)
Christians are instructed to live in unity with each other - I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. - 1 Corinthians 1:10
Don't you see? If we don't physically go to church, how are we ever going to know who needs help, who needs prayers, or who needs encouragement? If we only watch church online, how are we going to be able to encourage the person sitting next to us? Or pray for the person who needs it? Yes, the pastor might say something from about specific members who need prayer on an online service, but what about that person struggling all by herself in the corner of the church? How will you ever know she needs help unless you are able to talk to her?
What about spiritual gifts? How are we supposed to use our spiritual gifts if we are just sitting at home, watching church from the internet? What if your gift is hospitality? How can you possibly use a spiritual gift of hospitality from your couch? Or serving? How are you supposed to use your gift of serving if you aren't around anyone who needs it? Or the gift of ministry? How can you possibly minister to someone if you don't know what they need? You see Friends, we need to physically return to church in order to use the gifts God has given us to benefit other people.
Unfortunately, many people, both Christian and non-Christian, are arguing that church doors should remain shut. That online church is just fine. One of the most popular arguments I have heard about returning to church is that, "It is unloving. It could make someone sick."
In answer to that, let me a ask a question - How is following God's will unloving? Isn't God the definition of love? What portion of Hebrews 10:25 sounds unloving to you? Where in Scripture does God tell us to live in fear of other people? Or fear of making them sick when we aren't even sick ourselves? Doesn't God say with His own mouth, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land"? (2 Chronicles 7:14) Isn't this proof to all Christians that following God's Word results in healing?
(*Please don't twist what I am trying to say. I am not saying Christians should be reckless. If you are legitimately sick, you should stay away from other people. That is Scriptural. Most churches have safety guidelines in place for this reason.)
In all honesty, there are probably a hundred different reasons, arguments, or excuses one could make to avoid going to church or why the church should continue to close it's doors. However, as Christians, we should be most concerned with what Christ says about this issue.
You see, Friend, being a Christian requires being bold in faith that God will take care of us. I know it is scary, but God truly does have everything in His control. We cannot let fear take precedent over Christ. It is time to physically return to church. It is time to stop arguing over every little thing. It is time to be unified. It is time to start using our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others. It is time to start encouraging each other.
After all, the day of His return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Thank You for giving us Your Word. Help us to be bold. Thank You for not giving us a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Help us all to be unafraid as we follow You. In Jesus's name,