24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.
How many times must an act be repeated to become a habit? Or for how long? A week, a month, a year? The churches in Canada have, for the most part, made a habit of neglecting physical gathering together. The encouragement, “stirring up,” love, good works—are not “virtual” events. They are real and tangible, and it is time we obeyed this command.
Here’s another way to understand this: Imagine that a non-plague like Covid-19 occurred in the 1960s when our online world today was just science fiction. Worship was either in-person or it wasn’t. Churches were assembled physically, or they were not churches. How would our ancestors in the faith respond to the ordered lockdown of churches? If many thousands were dying daily in their world, they had the adult wisdom to stay home. But we have lost the ability to think, and meekly do as we’re told by leaders who are themselves breaking the law. Even the leaders have abdicated their leadership to experts who are proving themselves to be malicious fools.
But we can happily submit to tyrants because there is an easy out—online worship! We don’t feel the need to face down tyranny, because we have Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, and Romans 13! If there are “two or three gathered together” huddled around the monitor or TV, Christ is there! (never mind that Matthew18:20 is in the context of church discipline and the authority of the church to deal with sin).
Christians in the past also had Romans 13, for about 2000 years, but have never used that Scripture to justify this behaviour.
Our understanding of our obedience in worship (physical assembly) has been shaped not by Scripture, which demands obedience to God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Our understanding of obedience is shaped by our culture, primarily our technology. We can breathe a sigh of relief that we have the online option, so we don’t have to actually obey. Maybe online church is God’s judgment, not His blessing.
“What would we do without the internet?” That should be the question of our soul. The answer could be damnation.
Most of us have not worshipped in a year, or enjoyed real fellowship, or communion, and we are in grave danger of getting used to it, of making it a habit.
There was a time when gathering was the expectation. Televised worship services were permissible for shut-ins and prisoners, but anyone who was physically able would worship with the saints. No Christian who hoped to grow in his faith would think of staying away!
So . . .
We have lost a great opportunity in this past year.
We have lost the opportunity to declare to our neighbours and communities that Christ is Lord over the church, and that our allegiance to Him is first and foremost. This is the expectation of every Christian. “If Jesus is not Lord, don’t join us. You’ll be disappointed.”
We have lost the opportunity to show physically, that social distancing is a fool’s errand. It is a satanic destruction of human life, and we lost the opportunity to say “no” to it: to defend the defenceless—the infirm, the unemployed, the drug addict, the lonely, the suicidal. We have outsourced Christian compassion and concern a CERB cheque. (CERB is a monthly cheque used to mollify its recipients).
We have lost the opportunity to demonstrate hope.
We must not seek a return to normal, because that will never happen. Indeed, if normal led us to this, we are insane to seek to return to it. No, we must repent of our fear, anger, rebellion, hard-heartedness, and mean-spiritedness.
We must ask God to restore and reform His church.