Meeting together

I’ve had this one queued up for a while.  Below is something my friend Rachel wrote about Hebrews 10:25, which I thought I’d share with the readers of this blog.  I like it a lot.  The first “love wins” is Rachel’s.  When I saw how she wrote that, I had to agree.  By the Way, Love Wins.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This has been on my heart lately. Our family has quietly walked away from the mainstream, method of church-meeting and has experienced some criticism for doing so. Unfortunately, Hebrews 10:25 has become one of those verses which is often plucked up out of context and used to guilt folks into never missing an “authorized” church service (and completely missing the positive message of that marvelous passage). For me, the real beauty of Hebrews 10:25 begins with the overall context of the new covenant’s superiority over the old, the priesthood of Jesus (Spirit-grace) has replaced the insufficient priesthood of men (sacrifice-law). It is in that amazing, paradigm-shattering context that we read Hebrews 10:19-25:

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And 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 —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(TNIV)

I would continue to the end of the letter as the writer of Hebrews says some of the most amazing things regarding this new life in Christ, our assurance of it and how we are to live, but for the sake of space I will refrain. The main thing I would like to point to is that this “assembly or meeting” of believers has absolutely nothing to do with a building or location, it’s a non-issue which has unfortunately been made into a major issue. In fact, it is only one of two places in the new testament that the greek word επισυναγωγην (episunagoge) occurs (the other being 2 Thessalonians 2:1… interesting). If the author of Hebrews meant this passage to refer in particular to the regularly scheduled meeting of believers he/she would most likely have used the word συναγωγην (synogogue, as in James 2:2). The “epi” in “episunagoge” adds the meaning of “over” or “above and beyond” which implies that this instruction is aimed at a more informal kind of “assembly” which happens outside of the regularly scheduled gatherings, like coming together on a friday night with other families for supper and a sweet, open time of friendship and fellowship.

The primary instruction in verses 24 and 25 is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. The writer then specifies how to do that: by meeting together and exhorting (encouraging) one another. If we abandon being together, how can we possibly “stir up love and good works”? The emphasis is on the PEOPLE, not the place. It really doesn’t matter if the location is a modern, air-conditioned venue with a big parking lot (and probably highly mortgaged, but that’s another issue), a tiny apartment or an obliging field. What matters is that believers come together in order to celebrate and experience kingdom life with each other.

If location did matter, then I fear many of the meetings I have witnessed in places like Sao Paulo, Brazil and Nyeri, Kenya would fall outside legitimacy and those wonderful brothers and sisters might then be seen as “forsaking the assembly” by meeting together in a field, a park or a grass hut. Do you see how this argument simply falls apart outside of our western notion of “doing church” under a steeple (or a denomination for that matter)? Otherwise we come mighty close to saying that certain verses may not necessarily apply to folks in other cultures, implying that our western way of doing things is the correct way… dangerous! Was the bible written for our 21st century American christianity or is it sufficient for all believers in all places at all times?

The Church, then, is not a place but a PEOPLE. Jesus is coming back for a BRIDE, not a building. We’ve heard this before, but we haven’t really understood. The beauty of the Kingdom of God is that it transcends time, place, social class, ethnicity, gender, age, political affiliation… you get the point. Our citizenship is now in Christ’s upside-down kingdom where the first will be last and the last will be first, where there are no celebrity christians, and where we are truly free.

For the record, I personally have nothing against meeting in mainstream church buildings, I’ve seen Jesus there too. Our family has simply opted out of that system, just like we opted out of the educational system because we found something that resonates with our heart. That was our choice and I don’t judge any brother or sister who chooses differently. It’s really about the attitude of our heart.

… and by the way…Love wins.

Love Wins

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