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Monday, March 30, 2020

Pray at Home

My wife posted a (very brief) video last week that showed our "watching party" -- us two and 6 other people gathered from our church to be together in small fashion to worship during the online service. We didn't exceed any suggested limits. We didn't come in close contact. We just were in the same place worshiping together. A small "communion of the saints." Because one of the absolutely bottom-line key components of Christian ethics is "one another." We are, at the core, supposed to love one another, to bear one another's burdens, to be kind to one another. And so on. And without "another" it is impossible to do. So, as much as is in our capability, we meet ... with one another.

My wife received angry opposition from that. "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?" (In all caps.) She was informed of how stupid we were being and how dangerous it was and how we needed to isolate, isolate, isolate. The fact that we live in a state with a low infection rate and the commenter was from a state with a high infection rate was superfluous. The fact that we were within the limitations of the government restrictions was irrelevant. "If you want to pray," the commenter said, "pray at home alone!" Sure, it is unavoidable that we will come in contact with people, but we are not supposed to do it willingly. Only the essentials. Only that which is critical. That's the idea.

I learned from this. I learned of the basic disconnect between the faith and most everything else from the outside perspective. (I say "the faith" because I'm not talking about institutional Christianity or the public perception of Christianity. I'm talking about the actual-relationship-with-God kind of Christianity.) Our current culture thinks it's all well and good if you want to believe, but just keep it to yourself. Don't trot it out in public. Don't bother anyone else with it. It's a personal thing. Like surfing or bike-riding or quilting. Something you do because you like it. Not something you are. That's the disconnect.

A religion is a personal thing to our world. You practice it as you see fit. But to the believer, it is life itself. We are known by God (Gal 4:9) in contrast to "I never knew you" (Matt 7:23). Our eternal life is found in knowing God (John 17:3). That relationship with the Godhead is life itself. You can't keep it personal. You can't practice as you like. It permeates and indwells and transforms you. It changes how you act, think, speak, live. So this isn't nonessential. It is absolutely critical. And in that is the whole "one another" thing. John wrote, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." (1 John 4:11-12). God's love for us demands that we love one another and that love for one another is a sign that God abides in us. That's absolutely critical.

Beyond the oft repeated "love one another," Scripture speaks of fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7), humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5), serving one another (1 Peter 4:10), praying for one another (James 5:16), encouraging one another (Heb 3:13; Heb 10:25), stimulating one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24), building up one another (1 Thess 5:11), bearing with one another (Gal 6:2; Col 3:13), regarding one another as more important than yourself (Php 2:3), showing tolerance for one another (Eph 4:2), serving one another (Gal 5:13), and so much more. Oh, and "Greet one another with a holy kiss." Multiple times (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26). Sure, that was then. We don't do that. You can say that, but what you cannot say is that the bulk of Scripture on the topic of "one another" was only talking about "at a distance." In principle, it cannot be done at a distance. Explicitly we are not supposed to forsake assembling together (Heb 10:25). This isn't whimsical, lightweight, a personal thing. This is mission critical.

So, sure, we try to be safe. We comply with government mandates, which currently limit us to 10. Fine. At least we're still with one another. If we're symptomatic or potentially infected, out of love for one another we withdraw for a time (They tell us the incubation period from infection to symptoms is less than two weeks.). We limit exposure. We pay attention to our surroundings and the people we're with. We practice good things like hygiene. All of these are real and true and good. But if we let this thing stop us from following that for which God made us, the damage will be worse than any pandemic. Knowing and following Christ is not nonessential. Nor is it merely a personal thing. We can't just do it at home. We must be connected to one another. To do otherwise is neither safe nor reasonable.

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