Acts 9:10-19, 26-28; Romans 12:4-5; Hebrews 10:24-25
In the February 25, 2008, edition of USA Today, there was an article detailing a Pew Forum study on a survey about the Religious Landscape of the United States. The study concluded that people in the United States are “constantly shifting amid religious choices” and are “unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions.” They also noted that 44 percent of the 35,556 adults surveyed claimed they had abandoned the religious upbringing of their childhood.
One of the authors of the study, John Green, comments that, “It will become increasingly difficult to find people who share a love for a distinct doctrine.” Our culture does not value what believers absolutely must have: encouragement and accountability from other believers.
The necessity of “togetherness” is sometimes touted as a reason to avoid church: “I can worship God by myself on the lake, at the golf course, in the mountains …” We’ve heard it all before.
If you look at the passage in Hebrews, you find an admonition to stay together. Scripture tells us we are to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
The first time I rode a horse, my cowboy friend helped my put my spurs on—small nubs of metal strapped to the back of my boots. As I began having trouble directing the horse, my friend told me to (his words) “jab that spur in her side—otherwise she won’t pay attention to you.” As much as I was afraid of hurting the animal (I didn’t ), it was necessary to give a good nudge to keep her headed in the right direction. The same is true of believers. We need to help (sometimes with more than a nudge) keep each other headed in the right direction.
The other part of the Hebrews passage helps solidify the necessity of staying in the company of believers. We live in a world today that seems to encourage the attitude of staunch individualism. God has not designed us as Christians to live lives independent of one another.
In the miniseries “Spartacus,” viewers were transported to 72 B.C. and allowed to follow the life of a former slave who led an army of freed slaves against the Roman Empire. In one scene, Spartacus is attempting to lead his army in an attack, but selfishness and insecurity sweep the ranks. Spartacus calls one strong man forward and asks him to break one arrow, which the soldier does easily. Then he hands the soldier a bundle of arrows and asks him to break them all at once. The soldier fails and throws the arrows down in disgust. “We are like the arrows,” Spartacus says. “Separately we're weak, but together we're invincible.”
Our strength as believers in Christ is multiplied as we hold together in the local body.
When I was much younger, I remember going on camping trips with my church’s Royal Ambassador group. I continue to marvel at the patience shown by our sponsors. At some point during the camping trip, we would gather around the campfire waiting to eat cobbler while one of the sponsors would share a biblical lesson.
At one of these talks, our sponsor nonchalantly kicked a glowing ember from the fire pit. He then proceeded to talk to us about needing one another in our Christian walk. It wasn’t really impacting us that much until he reached down and picked up the now cool ember. He showed us the piece of wood that was once glowing hot had now cooled off—because it had been removed from its encouraging surroundings. He then tossed the ember back into the fire. It wasn’t very long before it began to glow again.
A poignant reminder that Christians are not called to live a solitary existence. We need one another to keep us encouraged, teachable and accountable.