As pastors we heard that question often. Albeit, in various forms. And people had many reasons for not attending. We’ve probably all heard the most common ones: It’s my only day to sleep in, or I have to work. I don’t like the worship, or don’t get anything out of church. The people are either not friendly or too judgmental. Or even too committed (sort of fanatical, you know)?
But we heard many crazy explanations too, which usually left us speechless. It’s raining, or too cold (or hot) out. One family that stayed home because it took all of them to wipe the baby’s nose. Or the man who couldn’t come because he’d stubbed his toe. I guess he should have always worn steel-toed shoes…
- Maybe the real truth is many of them just didn’t want to go.
- Or perhaps, like many these days, they thought they don’t need the church.
But probably the best one we heard was that “having to attend church all the time was just legalism, and we’re no longer under the law. After all, we can worship God anywhere.”
And it’s true. We are no longer under the Mosaic law. But as God’s children, we are under a greater law.
The law of love, ruled by a fervent heart whose one passion and wish is to honor the Lord. You know the last excuses? The runny nose and stubbed toe? They were really just symptoms. Of a heart grown cold. One that serves God out of obligation, not love.
Not that it’s always wrong to miss church because of work, or family responsibilities. God understands that we have other responsibilities. But he also knows that our quest for more often leads into working unnecessary overtime. He knows when we’ve put other things before him.
And he knows that the fervent heart doesn’t attend worship because it must, but because it delights in God’s presence.
And because the fervent heart understands that we find strength in fellowship. Both with God, and in walking with our fellow believers.
And it makes the same cry as Peter’s did.
Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God,’ (John 6:68-69)
My cry today is: “Lord, don’t let me drift from your life-giving presence. Keep my heart close to yours, and delighting in your presence. And in the fellowship of my brethren. Because “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1)
Isn’t that your prayer too?