Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ.
Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible
suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were
beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same
things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and
when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy.
You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.
The Barna Research Group is a resource company that conducts focused research on the intersection of faith and culture. In 2016 they studied the trend of people that strongly identified as being Christian but are ‘de-churched’ (defined as not having attended a church in six months or more). There were many statistics they revealed in their study, but the one number I want to focus on is the response this group gave when asked if they, “Loved Jesus but Not the Church.” Overall 61% of women and 39% of men in this category strongly agreed with this statement.[i]
We live in a culture where the church Jesus Christ established on this earth through the early disciples now undergoes attacks from both from within and without. Unfortunately, one of the most useful strategies Satan employs is to get Christians to remove themselves from the church. This happens because of conflicts, abuses of authority, twisted doctrine, and the culture of individuality that pervades our nation. Then, alone with themselves, they try to maintain their faith without the relationships of other Christians. The result is usually a slow slide away from truth as the culture begins to win the battle.
As I read this passage above from Hebrews, I imagined the scene the writer of Hebrews is describing. I envisioned a Christian husband and wife being beaten and stones hurled at them. They run, ducked down with hands shielding their heads, to get away from their persecutors. I then imagine them coming to the door of another Christian family who takes them in and begins treating their wounds and encouraging them with the words of Jesus or scripture, all the while bearing the evidence of their own suffering by the healing wounds on their body from a few days before.
One can make a case for one reason why Christians today feel they can go it alone in their faith is that we face little or no persecution. Because this is true, we don’t feel we need other believers. However, tell the Church in China not to meet together. Tell the Church in Iran not to meet together. Tell the Church in Afghanistan not to meet together. The persecution they face drives them even closer together. They need one another.
Jesus didn’t establish his church to be a group of individuals doing solo acts. He created us to be His body! To preach the gospel and to serve and love one another (John 13:35). I ask you and me to consider these words from Hebrews 10 and the plight of the persecuted church around the world next time we are tempted to climb on a soapbox and say, “Just give me Jesus.”