Practicing Community and Encouragement

I would like to start by asking you to read Hebrews 10:19-25 (Link). The writer to the Hebrews asks us to think about three things: 1) Be aware of your absolute acceptedness in Christ. 2) Cling to the eternal promise of heaven. And 3) think about how you can encourage others. Verses 24-25 say, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”

So, that part about not giving up meeting together – that’s a little tricky right now. We can’t physically be together, at least not in the ways we are used to. We have literally given up meeting together as a church, but we still have “church.” We are distant from each other in ways we have never had to experience before. How do we encourage one another when we can’t be in each other’s presence?

The mandate to encourage and build up the body of Christ is threaded throughout the New Testament as an important part of discipleship. Community is the womb of our faith. It begins in community, it continues in community, it culminates in community. Just because we cannot physically be together does not mean we can’t be a community of beloved followers even in our socially distanced world. We have a personal responsibility to care for and encourage one another.

Isolation is the enemy of community. Although we are isolated by no choice of our own, we do have a choice whether to be lonely and alone or to reach out to others in the ways that we can. Isolation can mark our souls with despair, depressions, loneliness, even fear. We fall into self-pity wishing we had a friend to talk to or could be with our extended families.

I am guessing that many of you have been recipients of a phone call or a note in the mail, an email perhaps, that came just at the right moment, that lifted your spirits and turned your frown into a smile. I want to challenge you – challenge myself – to step out, to take responsibility to be the one to pick up the phone, to send that note, to invite a friend to join you on your porch for a visit. Bake some cookies, cut and share some of those beautiful flowers in your yard, those vegetables in your garden. Stop and talk to a neighbor when you walk your dog. Ask the Lord in prayer to put on your heart those who need just a touch of kindness and friendship, and then act on that prompting that comes from the Spirit. You will feel better and they will too! Don’t give up meeting together – but encourage one another with loving acts of kindness and friendship. Find ways to “meet together” during this season when we can’t meet together. Its more important now than ever. When we can’t go to church, we can still be the church. Amen? Amen!