Last Sunday night during services, a young man asked us to pray for him because he had not been living his life for God. He said he wanted to change and come back to God. Two teen friends left their seats to go and sit with him. They were his brothers. Not his biological brothers, his spiritual brothers.
After we ended our worship to God with a prayer, his church family surrounded him. I noticed their red-rimmed eyes. This moment meant so much to every one of them. They had watched this boy grow up, watched him put on Christ in baptism, and watched him get in with some bad influences. They had been hurting over him for some time, but now their arms went around the young man’s neck. They spoke quiet words of love and encouragement to him. One man, the father of one of the friends who’d sat down with him, said, “We’re glad you’re home. We’re your family, and this is where you belong.”
My family and I have been part of this congregation for about five months now. They know love. They know family. God’s family. Another spiritual sister, who returned to Christ a couple of months ago, cried when she saw this young man go forward. I thought she was reliving her own experience. She confided, “It makes me want to be better. I’m so proud of that boy,” she said, speaking of the first young man who’d gone to sit with his friend. “He wasn’t embarrassed or afraid to go up there and put his arm around him.” That sweet sister saw the love, and it touched her. It made her want to be a giver, too. And she was. Watching the whole situation unfold was one gift after another for me.
The Church is God’s family, made up of brothers and sisters who love each other so much that the most important thing in the world to them is to see each other in Heaven. “Should I go to church?” is often answered with Hebrews 10:25, which begins, “Not neglecting to meet together…” But there’s so much more to it than not neglecting to meet! Look back three verses, where verse 22 begins, “Let us draw near with a true heart…” To whom do we draw near when we gather together as God’s children? We draw near to God, and we also draw near to each other. Two verses before, verse 23 begins, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” The Church meets to remind us of the gathering to come, the greater gathering of all of His saints when time is done. We are holding fast to that hope of eternal life with God, which He promises to His children after this life. That’s why we meet. The 24th verse adds, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Getting together regularly helps motivate us to do better! And Hebrews 10:25 has more to say than “not neglecting to meet together.” The full verse states, “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.” God set up the Church to encourage His children, to help them stay on track, not because He thought it would be entertaining to have them meet every Sunday. And not because He needs our encouragement.
The whole concept of Christianity—living for God, obeying Him, giving of ourselves for Him—doesn’t benefit Him at all. What does He gain from my allegiance? He has everything. He is everything. We’re the ones who have so much to gain by living for God, by obeying God, by giving of ourselves for Him. We become His hands and His feet to help the hurting. We get to share His blessings in our lives with each other. We bring His comfort. We speak His words to heal the heartsick. He gave us these good works so that we would experience real love, the joy of sacrifice, and the full and complete life that comes from serving our Creator and serving each other.
You see, God and His Church are a package deal. We who choose to be in His family get to love each other with the love God shows to us. And, like earthly families, we mess up sometimes. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in petty details and forget what’s important. Every family does that. It’s really just a sign that we’re involved, that we care, and that we have some growing together to do. So, when my spiritual sister gets in touch with me to tell me I’ve been missed at church and ask if I’m okay, she’s not being nosy. She’s being my reminder that Someone is on my side looking out for me and sending His family to give me the support I need.
Do you need God? Do you need His family? He says if you truly seek Him out, He’ll reward you for it. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6