Not Neglecting to Meet Together

I am stuck at home, like everyone else, with lots of time off but nowhere to go thanks to COVID-19.  I didn’t realize how much social interaction meant to me until I was told to “stay at home” and maintain “social distance” when I go out.   I rebelled at the thought of having no face-to-face interaction with other people. We are social creatures and need others to interact with, God did not create us to be alone but to be together, uplifting and serving one another.

I found evidence for my view of needing social interaction in my morning Bible reading:

And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, ESV, emphasis mine).  There! Biblical proof that we should be meeting together for encouragement. But as is the case in Biblical passages, there was more to this message than my own need to socialize.  I re-read the whole paragraph to establish more context of what the author of Hebrews was trying to say.

Hebrews 10:25 is the last of three exhortations that the author of Hebrews gives his readers to help them draw near to God and urges us to apply these three strong pieces of advice.  Here they are:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscious and our bodies washed with pure water (first exhortation).  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (second exhortation). And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (third exhortation).  Hebrews 10:22-25, ESV.

These three exhortations were a powerful reminder to me of the awesome ability that we have in approaching God.  The first two exhortations are personal in that only we can choose to draw near to God (the first exhortation) and hold fast to the confession of our hope (the second exhortation).  These involve action on our part, a personal relationship between us and God. The third exhortation requires action outside ourselves. To seek out how to stir up one another in love and good works requires effort and love on our part to pursue relationships with other Christians.  That is probably why the author of Hebrews encourages us to not neglect to meet with each other as it is easier to make those relationships face-to-face. We, as Christians, should pointedly and with purpose consider how to help each other love and do good works as the Day is coming when Jesus will return and see what kind of building we constructed on his foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).  We should meet together, encourage, and exhort one another to love and good deeds. Practicing encouragement toward one another would foster love and good deeds, drawing us near to God by our godly actions.

This brings me back to the problem I had in the first place.  How am I supposed to stir up love and good works in others if I must practice social distancing and my church has been closed indefinitely because it is a large gathering of people?  In Hebrews 3:13, the author of Hebrews says “Exhort one another every day as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Away from each other and isolated in our homes we are prone to the deceitfulness of sin.  It creates fear and not faith. This is the time when we need to do what the author of Hebrews exhorts us to do and “let us consider” how to have meaningful communication with others outside our homes. It is so important that we keep purposeful contact with others during this time through phone calls, emails, facetime, and other personal communication means.  Social media is not a personal connection as whatever we post is shared with everyone and is not an intentional communication with one person.

In my New King James Version Bible I saw that I circled the words “faith,” “hope,” and “love” in these passages and marveled that those words were within each of the exhortations.  Faith, hope, and love summarize each one. They answer who we should have faith in (first exhortation), what we should hope for (second exhortation), and who to love (third exhortation).   First Corinthians 13:13 says “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” It is true that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) but perhaps it is also the greatest because it requires action on our part.  The third exhortation says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” spurring us into action to love one another even in our circumstances today, when we cannot leave our homes because we have to shelter in place.

Update: Reading the Bible in a Year

The first mistake that I made when I began to read the Bible in one year is to think I could actually finish it in one year.  My focus began to be on getting my daily reading assignment done instead of actually taking it in and appreciating the Word of God.  When I didn’t get in my daily Bible reading I would chastise myself and feel bad that I didn’t do it. I realized quickly that if I wanted to read the Bible through I had to 1) Give myself grace for missed days and 2) Embrace the fact it wouldn’t be read in one year.

We talk about God’s grace all the time.  It is a foundation of our faith: that we who deserve death, by God’s grace, have life through His son Jesus Christ.  Why is it I don’t extend grace to myself? Yes, I will mess up and not ready my daily Bible passages. I may sleep in, get sick, or get distracted.  I must give myself grace and forgive myself when I don’t read my Bible passages and pick it back up the next morning, each new day is a fresh beginning.  The key is to keep reading and not allow missed days to deter me from making my goal. For what is my goal? Read the Bible in a year or simply read the Bible through?  Reading the Bible through is more important than the time it takes me to do it in.

Once I made peace with the fact I wouldn’t make it through in a year, I’ve been fairly regular about reading the daily selections.  I tend to miss Sunday mornings as I like to give myself a day of rest from the alarm clock that morning. Sometimes I double up my reading assignment, read two days worth in one sitting, but it takes twice the time and I don’t do it during work days as I would rush through my reading to get ready for work.  In February 2020, I made it to the half-way point in the reading plan. It took me 8 months to read through the first half of the plan.

Now that I’m about half-way through I am thankful that I chose to keep at it.  It is allowing me to see and appreciate the character of God in a way I never have before.  It’s my first time reading through some of the Old Testimate books and I finally understand why the Psalms praise God’s steadfast love so often.  He showed the Israelites again and again (and again!) His steadfast love even when they kept sinning and worshiping idols. It makes me appreciate why Jesus had to come and understand the full capacity of the love and grace that He showed us in His death and resurrection.

Go ahead and read the Bible in “a year” but take enough time to take the Word in.  Don’t fall into a “checklist” mentality like I did: reading the daily scriptures only for the satisfaction of crossing it off the list.  Read it slowly and digest the Word as it is the bread of life. Read it at a pace that suits you: don’t read so fast you miss what the Word is saying or read so carefully that all effort is in study.  Read to understand what the Bible is saying and pray the Lord reveals Himself to you as you read. The goal is to read the Bible through and not to read it through in a year.