As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m reminded that one of the best blessings enjoyed by the community in which I live is the spirit of goodwill and unity which generally prevails among the churches and pastors in our area. No small blessing, that’s a big reason I like living here.
The community worship opportunities, such as the community Thanksgiving service on the horizon, warm my heart and give me hope. What a witness to believers and unbelievers alike who are sadly accustomed to division in this world but surprised by unity. What a blessing when God’s people come together to celebrate that which unites us.
It may also be a command, by the way. No kidding.
Christians will remember that we are commanded to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4). And, though we treasure the beautiful “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ that truly deserves that title is the Lord’s beautiful and poignant prayer for unity in John 17.
Christ was serious about unity. A lot more serious than many of his followers have been. Church history through the ages (and our own sad experience) points to lots of teapot tempests over all sorts of obscure Scriptures, fusses undertaken while the combatants, “biting and devouring each other,” ignored the Lord’s very clear, very plain, plea for unity.
But the passage I have in mind right now is not Ephesians 4 or John 17 or any of the other “landmark” passages on Christian unity. No, it’s Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
You thought that was about going to church, didn’t you? Well, it probably is. I’m quite sure that in principle it applies to our attendance at worship in our own congregations. We’ll bless ourselves and our fellow worshipers by being committed enough to Christ to be serious about being at worship. If we become lax in that regard, our faith is in more serious jeopardy than we might think. (See the next few verses, Hebrews 10:26-31, if you doubt that.)
But, if you do a little study, you’ll find or recall that in those “early church” days, Christians in a given community met in “house churches,” small groups all over the area. (Hmm. I guess in that regard it was a lot like us. No big signs, though.) Did they ever all come together, all of the house churches with each of their pastors (collectively, the “elders” of that city)? I don’t know. It’s an interesting possibility, though. Those whose hard study has earned them a right to a worthwhile opinion say that church history is murky about those details.
But I know it’s good for us to do that once in a while. I wish we did it a lot more often.
It just might be a command. It would certainly be a blessing. Whenever it happens even for a little while, it’s a good thing.
“Let us not give up meeting together.”
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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.