"FORSAKE NOT... "

Do not quit meeting together, as some people are in the habit of doing Instead, encourage one another even more, since you see the day coming closer. Hebrews 10:25

It seems to me that we have really scrambled up this verse over the years.

Through my younger years, I was taught that this scripture teaches it is "a sin to forsake The Assembly".

After I grew up and studied it for myself, I re-interpreted it as "not forsaking the assembling together with Christians, whenever they meet". Actually, there is not much practical difference between the two viewpoints. Very subtle.

It seems that it has become doctrine that "the meetings" it is a sin to forsake are the times agreed upon and published by the elders of the local church if the church is "scripturally organized". Or if the local church is "scripturally unorganized", then it is the times agreed upon and published by the "men of the congregation" decided in a Men's Business Meeting.

A young preacher I know recently wrote that when one becomes a Christian, he makes a vow to attend all the "services of the church" set up by the elders. I've never read anything like that anywhere in the Hebrew or Greek scriptures. Have you? I knew that the idea was taught and believed, but never had I seen it written. And in such certain terms, at that. In our time, it has become doctrine, as sacred as if written by God's finger into stone tablets. It seems to me that the reason this doctrine evolved is that the organized church will fall apart without the mandatory attendance to its meetings by its members.

Now there are actually several views even about that. Some teach that the assembling in Hebrews 10 is not "an assembling", but is actually The Assembly. (They change the action of assembling (participle) to a thing assembly noun) In this interpretation, since the word is singular, The Assembly then becomes the main Sunday morning meeting only. The absence of a Sunday morning meeting in scripture never seems to make any impression upon those who hold this view.

So, according to this one doctrine, forsaking The Assembly on Sunday night or Wednesday night would not be a sin, since those are not The Assembly being considered in Hebrews 10:25. However, the reasoning goes, not being in the Sunday night or Wednesday night Assembly, certainly would show a lack of devotion to the Lord. The doctrine further specifies that not being in the assembly because you are Providentially Hindered on Sunday morning does not constitute a Forsaking, and thus is not a sin.

Think about that with me. What does it mean to be Providentially Hindered? Have you ever wondered about that?

I suppose that being Providentially Hindered means that God sends you a Providential Hindrance. What would that be? A cold, the flu, a broken leg or something else that hinders you (providentially) from assembling? At least He hinders you in some way by his Divine Providence and Care, I reckon.

(Does this mean that when a Christian gets the flu, it is always sent by, God to hinder him? What if the person never misses The Assembly and attends with the flu? Has he been hindered? Or is he just enjoying the Providence of God?)

There are some who apparently disagree with this view altogether. They are in The Assembly with a cold, the flu, the sniffles almost any communicable disease which leaves them able to sit on a pew spreading it to all who are within sneezing distance.

So, according to the doctrine, it would not be a sin to stay away from The Assembly, if it is God himself who hinders you (by His Providence, of course). That would not be "forsaking.''

Have you ever wondered whether your severe head-cold was sent to you by the Providence of God or by the wiles of the Devil? All those times I gave credit to the Devil, perhaps I should have thanked God for the flu!

How can we tell whether a hindrance is Providential or Devilish?

Others teach that consciously missing any of The Services set by either the Elders or the Men's Business Meeting constitutes a Forsaking. I know of a church or two that officially "dis-members" (Withdraw Fellowship From) those who do not assemble regularly' with them on Sunday nights.

What if those folks withdrawn from so conscientiously, were being Providentially Hindered? Then who has sinned? The ones God hindered from attending who were Withdrawn From, or the ones Withdrawing who failed to see that God's Providential Hand was what caused their absence?

It seems to me, we may have missed the whole point.

If you notice the actions of early disciples in the book of Acts, it becomes evident that they met daily and from house to house.

Think about that.

Some times in the past, I have just let that skim right over the top of my head. But those disciples met daily and from house to house. Should that mean anything to us today? Should we imitate their actions for any reason?

Why not, if not?

Should it be our practice, as it was in Jerusalem in the early days, to leave our place of work and head immediately to the place where other Christians are assembling that day? Wouldn't that be wonderful? To leave work and go to the home of a brother or sister and know that I would be surrounded there by other Christians. Those whom I love and who love me. Those with whom I would rather be than with anyone else in the world.

Just think of some of the consequences of that practice ...

Think of the time we would have for "teaching and admonishing each other with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs".

Think of the time we would have for teaching each other and learning from each other.

Think of the time we could spend, bringing up our children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord".

Think of the time we would have for "maturing each other toward the work of serving toward building up the body of Christ",

Think of how well we could get to know each other. We could know each other's joys and happinesses; losses and sorrows; weaknesses and temptations; strengths and accomplishments,

Think of how well our elders could feed us if they knew us that well.

Think of how much we could attend to each other's needs if we knew each other that well.

Have you ever heard a conversation similar to this one?

"I wonder why sister Jones is not at church today."

"Well, I don't know', but last Sunday night after church, she told me she was getting the sniffles."

Then later it turns out, after sister Jones has missed The Assembly for two or three weeks, someone finally checks on her and finds out she's been in the hospital with pneumonia, near death. Has that ever happened where you are?

Just think about how much we could know about each other's health. How much we could do for each other if we simply made our meeting place the home of the sick one instead of a comfortable, air-conditioned and heated building with padded pews. Just think about it. We could "doctor'' her. Prepare her meals. Clean her house. Do her laundry. Take care of her kids. Take her to the doctor if her sniffles got worse, before she came down with pneumonia.

Just think of what we could do with and for each other, if we would just take off the blindfolds and see what the disciples in New Testament times really did with and for each other and see the value in imitating them.

By contrast, what they did makes our three Services for three or four hours a week look like something the children dreamed up so they could play "church," doesn't it?

Why not try it where you are?

Try meeting several times a week, from house to house, with other Christians who care. Perhaps one evening have a Bible study. Another evening have a meal together. Another evening, just pray. Another evening sing to lift the spirits of a depressed one. Another evening teach a lost one. Another evening spend the entire group's time teaching the children. Another evening, put your resources together to help someone in need. Or mix these all together. Or do all of these things that anyone you know needs.

A group of disciples I know recently heard of a widow in their town whose house was about to be condemned and torn down because she was alone and poor and could not maintain it. She would have nowhere to go and no one to care for her. By pooling their talents and their efforts, they repaired and painted her house and rescued her from destitution.

What a concept! Right?

Wish I had thought of it, but I didn't. The Lord did. And he put it right in front of our noses, in scripture where we'd be sure to miss it.

It seems to me that the Hebrew writer was encouraging his readers to continue meeting together frequently. "Don't quit meeting together," he said. But do just the opposite ... "keep meeting together so you may encourage each other even more..." We get our greatest encouragement and strength from God, but through each other! That's a major way He does it! Please don't ever forget that.

I don't believe God checks our attendance at assemblies in a book as the Rotarians or Kiwanis do. Do you? When will we ever learn that this business of being a faithful follower of Jesus is a matter of loving and caring for God, for the lost, and for each other not a matter of attending Christian meetings?

May God bless us and have mercy on us all!