As I sit behind my desk with a little more time on my hands, I realize one of the most important things to me at this time of testing is fellowship with my church family. I have admitted in the past, and still lay claim to the fact that I have no problem spending time by myself. I spend a good portion of my time in my “mancave” that is filled with books, trophies of past hunts, pictures, paintings, and backpacking gear; all reminders of a life well-traveled, a life enjoyed. Yet, as I look around this office, I realize that there are things this office cannot give me. This office and all the great reminders of my past cannot give me your voice, your laugh, a smiling eye, a hardy handshake or a holy hug. Basically, this office and all its great memories cannot give me YOU.
The Apostle Paul once said to the church in Thessalonica, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” (1Thessalonians 2:8) That grand apostle put his feelings for the Thessalonians out there for everyone to see. He could have written something much less emotional but he uses phrases like, “affectionately longing” and “dear to us.” Now, some may look at the words and phrases the Apostle Paul is using as coming from a sentimental old man who would be considered a people person. Although this sentiment might have some merit, it doesn’t tell the whole story of why Paul had so much affection for the church at Thessalonica.
If we are to have a clear understanding of Paul’s affection for this great church in the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, we need to look at his writings in his second letter to the Corinthians. Here Paul states, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2Corinthians 5:14-15)
What compelled Paul should indeed compel all of us to have the want and desire to be with our church family. So, what compelled Paul’s desire to be with all those he ministered to? Simply put, his love for Jesus Christ. There is no greater motivator for love, fellowship, ministry, or for doing life in general than the love that Jesus Christ has shown us through His sacrifice on the cross because of our sin. Think about it, Jesus died in order to take away our sin so that we might experience the love and fellowship of the Godhead. In return, we are compelled to extend this love and fellowship to one another because of what Christ has done on our behalf. The plain truth of the matter is Jesus died for me and you and when we accepted Him as our personal Lord and Savior we have been placed into one big family called the Body of Christ, the Church. When that happens, we became family and it should be a normal response to have a want, a desire, and be compelled to be with that family through the local church.
As we begin “Passion Week” and conclude with the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection, we need to be mindful of the fact that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him. At this time of social distancing we need to be acutely aware that we are missing out on something… Fellowship. Fellowship is more than just catching up on Sunday morning to find out how everyone is doing, it’s much deeper than that. It is a time when we can celebrate Jesus’ life-giving sacrifice, and to celebrate the knowledge that He has placed us into this great body called His Church. Because of His great sacrifice we are compelled to not live for ourselves, but for each other as we live for Him. And at the very least we should be missing the sweet fellowship we have with one another. I cannot speak for you, but I know I have taken my fellowship with you for granted, that is, I could never dream of a time when I would not be able to spend time with you.
I want you to know that I miss all of you. I know I am socially awkward, that I struggle being around a lot of people. Social distancing is not hard for me. Those who know me well know that I would rather be in on my motorcycle, or in the woods near a stream or lake, than be near people. Yet, God is teaching me that during this difficult time of separation I really do miss your company, your fellowship. I miss your smiles, your voices in song and praises to the Lord, I miss your sense of humor, your spiritual giftedness, but most of all I miss your presence in my life. Why? Because you have become very dear to me.
There may come a day in the future when I will no longer be able to preach and teach the Word of God and I think I will be O.K. with that. But not to have that special time of fellowship we have on Sundays and other days of the week; I wonder if I would be able to bear such a burden. How about you, do you miss fellowship with God’s people during this time of social distancing? If you are brothers and sisters in Christ but have not been in close fellowship with the body of Christ as seen in the local church, has this new norm of social distancing giving you time to consider what you are missing out on? Let me know what you think.
Until then, this is Pastor Pat wishing you joy in Jesus!