I have just started reading “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life” by William Law. The book was first published in 1728 and this makes the text challenging to read. The bigger challenge is that the principles presented are not of either the feel good or self help variety.
It is very observable, that there is not one command in all the Gospel for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never so much as mentioned in all the New Testament. Whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Saviour and His Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life.Law, William. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (p. 6). LRP. Kindle Edition.
Law may be correct in asserting that public worship is never commanded in the New Testament. However, based on Acts 2 it is clear that public worship is practiced. The early believers gathered regularly in the temple courts to worship and praise God. I do agree with Law’s assertion that the New Testament puts far greater emphasis on other aspects of the Christian life than it does on regular attendance at a public worship service.
What would be the impact of people being more aware of Christians living out their lives in a distinct way every day than they are of Christians gathering with other Christians for an hour on Sunday? My wife and I are finding this relevant for us. Due to some physical issues we are no longer able to attend large public gatherings indoors. Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened an opportunity for us to attend a public worship service in our home. The impact of this is that our neighbors no longer see us leaving the house every Sunday morning to travel to a church building for a public worship service.
So how will our neighbors know that we are still followers of Jesus? The easy answer would be to tell them and there will likely be opportunities when that is appropriate. The more challenging answer is to follow Jesus’ instruction:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:35 NIV)
The message we heard this past Sunday directly addressed this issue. You can watch the message here. It should not be so difficult for us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it is. If our love for God and our spiritual family are not visible beyond attendance at a public worship service, it will be difficult for our friends and neighbors to know how little or how much of God’s love exists in us.
Most challenging for us is Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies. While there might be rare opportunities for this to be demonstrated inside the church building, the better opportunities will be visible in public outside the church building. I think there would be a huge change in our culture if followers of Jesus were willing to engage with and sacrifice for the benefit of those who disagree with the gospel. I find this very difficult to put into practice because of the fear I experience whenever I view a situation as potentially confrontational.
God’s desire is that His love for us would give us the confidence to express His love to everyone we encounter who needs it. It is important to respond to God’s love through worship inside. It is even more important to express God’s love to the world around us outside. COVID has made it easy to stay inside. Look for opportunities to get outside and see who God brings your way to love.