My Thoughts. . .
In February we heard about the Chinese pandemic invading our shores. Little did we realize the affects this Virus would have on our religious views. It took people out of the church building and put them in house to house assemblies (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philippians 1:2). It caused us to question the “church building rules” that some have elevated to the level of scripture. For some, the place of worship had become their holy Temple although the New Testament does not possess that view. Some believe they go to that building because that is where God is. On the way to that rendezvous, tempers may flair, grumbling and discontent may be expressed, and minds may be controlled by thoughts totally removed from worship. For those individuals, the building is God’s location and when they enter they must do so respectfully since they are now in God’s presence.
Church buildings may serve a positive purpose, but they also have been a powerful weight around disciples’ necks. The building is considered “holy” and God indwells it. Since God is there, respect must be shown while “in house.” If one does not attend, he is refusing to meet with God. Such negligence would be disrespectful and an act of disobedience (Hebrews 10:25). Such views produce additional errors. It creates the thought that God is given His hour, but the rest of the week belongs to us. If profanity is needed to correct an employee, it is permitted because the user is not “in church.” Church has its rules but the rest of the week a different set is allowed. The Virus allows us to question such practices.
Respect for God is not restricted to one hour on Sunday nor confined to those who enter through the doors of the church building. That view owes its allegiance to passages in scripture being misused. The Virus has caused some disciples to question those traditions. For example, members may not be in the church building on Sunday, but that does not mean they have forsaken the assembly. A mother may take her baby out of the auditorium/sanctuary to go to the nursery, but is she guilty of forsaking the assembly? If so, should she not be disciplined? If she is guilty and not disciplined, the error has now taken a leap in the wrong direction. If she has not disobeyed Hebrews 10:25, then what is the difference between her actions of leaving the assembly and another member staying home and watching the service on her TV or computer? If she has a fever is that an excuse or a reason for staying home? If so, where is either case detailed in scripture? This scenario could degrade into a “judging” contest on which member is engaged in “forsaking” and which one is not. Judgment contests usually produces more problems than they solve. All because of that Chinese Virus!
Hebrews 10:25 uses the word “together.” Today’s saints define that to mean everyone must be in the same auditorium room. Yet, the Jerusalem church, with an 8,000+ membership met from house to house! Owning a building did not exist at that time. When the Jerusalem church met to receive the apostles’ doctrine, were they in one room? If not and they were meeting in different homes, were they “together”? We are so indoctrinated by our way of doing things that it is almost impossible for us to understand how the Jerusalem church could be together and yet be meeting in hundreds of different homes scattered throughout Jerusalem. In our way of thinking and practice, the only way the Jerusalem “church” could meet in different locations to worship, would be to follow us! Our way would be to divide into several different assemblies, with each having their own elders, deacons, and preacher. Each would own a church building with a sign describing their division as the Northside, Southside, Eastside, or Westside congregation. Of course, Paul condemned that plan which started with the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:8-10). They did not have it perfected as well as today’s church has. When persecution hit the Romans church, we visualize them finding an underground burial spot large enough to take care of the thousands who were members in the city. In New Testament language, the church can be “together” whether the membership meets in different locations or even at different times. The Chinese Virus forces us to question our practices and return to a study of what the New Testament actually states about their practices.
Some will use Acts 2:46 to prove that the 8,000+ Jerusalem church held Sunday services every week in the Temple courtyard. If our “respect for church laws” were applied to those meetings, they would be disappointed. The day after the Sabbath would have been like Saturday at today’s Walmart. How would one stop the noisy Temple traffic? The respectful quietness expected, especially during communion, would be impossible. Persecution from the Jewish court began almost immediately. Would the Temple police blind themselves to this heretical group taking up space that belonged to respectful Jewish worshipers? If 8,o00 worshipers from Jackson invading the Northside Walmart store, would they be welcomed or removed by the police? How sincere would one’s worship be if allowed to invade a store and start a worship service? Who would even propose that churches do such a thing?
Some elderships are attempting to “get back to normal” by having an assembly at the church building. Yet, elders are giving their blessings to the older membership to “stay at home” and “worship. Since the older ones are not meeting where the church building is located, are those folks guilty of forsaking the assembly? Where in the Bible is permission given by an eldership to inform members to NOT attend the assembly which the elders are in? The entire arrangement should open our eyes to the traditions we have been innocently engaged in for years. Covid-19 should be shouting loudly to us that sin enters only when we attempt to bind our traditions and views upon others. Thankfully, elderships are not making it mandatory for members “at risk” to be in the assembly in the church building.
Who would have thought that the Chinese Covid-19 Virus could teach us so much?