When I hit the submit button I thought that was it. I knew my mom would see what I had written, and I figured perhaps three or four other folks might read the post. (If you were to measure my popularity by my social media followers you'd probably shake your head with a smile and say, "Aw, that's cute.") I don't write to the masses. I write to like-minded friends (or so I thought).
The next morning, though, I woke up to a handful of notifications, alerting me of private messages, comments, shares, and responses. And I was surprised... even more so when I realized not all of them were positive.
You see, my goal in writing (both on an offline) is to encourage myself and others to know God more, in order to understand who WE are, and WHOSE we are. I usually pursue this through encouraging comments, analogies, comments about the character of God, and other uplifting conversation topics. Very rarely do I post a straight-up conviction or call to action.
My goal in writing is to encourage myself and others to know God more, in order to understand who WE are, and WHOSE we are.
I thought I knew my audience. I thought my post would serve to encourage folks to keep doing what they were doing. I assumed my post would serve as a pat on the back, an 'atta girl,' and would simply be a spot of joy in my friends' lives.
Nope. It made some folks mad! Some people felt personally attacked, and many were offended.
I had shared that, if folks had a doctrinally sound church to attend, they should not avoid gathering with the congregation simply based on convenience or preference. Watching online services from the comfort of your couch for no other reason than you didn't want to go through the trouble of getting dressed and showing up was not actually attending church, but watching others attend church.
I was surprised at the number of responses because what I believed to be a foundational part of being a Christian was apparently up for debate. Whether it was misunderstanding, conviction, or anger towards church in general, I got a lot of pushback. And here's why I was so surprised:
If we love Jesus we will love God's children. (It's a package deal.) And being that we are commanded to "one another" 59 times, and as we are are the best ambassadors for Christ when we love each other, it stands to reason that true Christians should WANT to love each other, and should be thrilled for every opportunity to gather together. Right? Doesn't that make sense? Doesn't that seem logical?
True Christians should WANT to love each other, and should be thrilled for every opportunity to gather together.
As an introvert with extroverted tendencies (I am able to speak to many people and I enjoy a good party, but end up completely drained and need to recover alone afterwards), I can identify with those for whom being in a larger gathering is exhausting. Yet it saddens my heart when folks (myself included) choose to use their God-given personalities to justify their selfishness. Serving others is hard sometimes. But we're called to "one another" and it's impossible to do that without being with the others.
With that pushback came another realization... I have a wonderful church, and that's a rare thing these days. I am weekly surrounded by people who love me and my family, and who genuinely care for the well-being of others. We as a congregation have had rich teaching that takes the character of God and beautiful doctrine and weaves it into biblical application. We have been trained well and it shows. And this is sadly not a normal thing these days.
I have a wonderful church, and that's a rare thing these days.
It is far easier for me to want to gather with fellow believers now because it's comfortable. And I do understand that's a rare privilege. I have been very hurt by congregations in the past so I understand what what feels like, yet in each instance the call to gather together and love and serve each other does not change.
This is hard and holy work. Loving others when they are particularly unlovely is hard. Serving others when they see you as the servant is excruciating. But that's what Jesus did. (Please don't think I am advocating for staying in an abusive situation. Remember that this is in the context of being a part of a healthy, biblical church, with broken, sinful people.)
This is hard and holy work
What I still want to communicate was that Jesus has called us to love each other, up close and personal, and that it should be our delight to obey, even (especially) when it's hard.
Jesus has called us to love each other, up close and personal.
My first reaction to having folks unhappy with my post was to remove it, ignore it, make myself comfortable, and hide from the hard. But that's not love. Love is investment. Love is care. Love is hard. And love is a command. If I encourage others to invest in others I must do the same.
I must therefore continue to communicate what Scripture says, in kindness and clarity, whether or not others like what I'm saying. If I echo God's Word in love and sincerity, after having done the humble work of study and comprehension, then any disagreements folks may have with what I post is between them and Jesus. As the hymn says, "And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him." In that way I will prove my love for Christ, by seeking to love others.