In 1624 John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself…” I used to wish that wasn’t true. I even spent several years isolating myself to try to prove it wrong and to keep my actions from affecting anyone else. Not surprisingly, I found myself bitter, disillusioned, broken, and oh, so lonely. And by pushing away those who loved me, I left them, bereft, vulnerable, and wounded, too.
Man is not an island. We are created in community, not isolation. We cannot thrive on our own. Like the giant sequoias – regardless of our size, age, position, social status – we need the branches and arms of others to continue to hold us up and keep us grounded.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP) puts it this way, “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”
Consider this. This is worth a pause, mulling over. This is worth my contemplation and study and reflection. I can’t do this thing, this faith on my own. I need other people to encourage me and to sharpen me. Now, that’s a huge admission for strong-willed, perfectionist introvert (read: stubborn loner). I want to think that I’ve got this and that I’m doing fine over here on my own. I don’t want to acknowledge that I need help or that someone else might have a better understanding than me.
But then someone comes along passionate about a cause or with a need that I would have never would have considered on my own. Or someone crosses my path with the very viewpoint or background or path that I had always judged harshly in my ignorance. Or the Sunday message challenges one of my long-held views with the truth of the Gospel. My obliviousness and antipathy appall me. Oh, how I need to be incited and provoked to love and good deeds! How I need to be spurred and jolted out of complacency and into action!
It takes more than a click of a button to participate in life around me. My attendance is more than my online presence and my engagement is more than a ‘like’ on social media. My local Church needs more of me than spotty appearances when I feel like going. Meeting together is a pivotal, spiritual discipline. When I neglect it I abandon my neighbors, I desert them, and forsake them. Quite a departure from “love your neighbor as yourself”.
How does growth happen without consistency? What is consistency without regular attendance? My body would atrophy if I ate only one out of six meals. Forget thriving at that point. Survival would be my body’s only concern.
Similarly, my growth and transformation in Christ are directly proportional to my consistency in both private meditation in the Word and the active engagement with a community of other believers to hold me accountable and edify me with their insights and unique giftings.
Hebrews urges me to more than spectating and mere attendance. This gathering of God’s people is designed for more than a box to check off or a general association with the right kind of people – our Sunday compartment. I must come ready to both give and receive. I need to be all here, right now – not stuck halfway in yesterday or barreling on to tomorrow’s worry.
Let Paul’s words in Philippians 1:27 be our exhortation, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I man hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, and with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” And we can only be of one spirit and mind if we gather together frequently enough to know the minds and spirits of each other.
When we commit to Christ, we commit to each other.
Be here. Let us continue to gather together.1