It has definitely been quite some time since I have posted, and I do apologize. I have moments of motivation that I can do anything in the world, like consistently write, and other moments where I do not want to get out of bed. I seems to have been that I have been in the bed mood for a very long time.
With the current environment we are in, we are faced with something that has been absent from some of our lives for maybe years. For some, it might be the first time to ever experience this. What I am talking about is free time. Unfortunately for some, they have this new free time at an expense of their financial situation, and I am deeply sorry. We are facing a situation unprecedented in recent history. We are living today something that will be written about in history books. I pray for you that this may be a time to draw closer to God and resist temptation.
I had a comment posted about how I had not posted in a while. I also had a friend mention it recently. I has not been that I have not had more ideas to write. I actually think I was supposed to start a series. So that was enough to kick me to want to write again. I do have a few things to write about now that my imagination has been let loose and my solitude has led me to take up different crafts. I hope to actually write more often. So far my time has been taken up by creating a home gym since I was going to get back into working out, but the gyms are close and the equipment is all sold out. Even when the gyms open back up in the next few months, I will not go. So, I will write about that. I even read a book about evidence that refutes atheism and lends a lot of evidence to the universe being created. It is very good and I never read books! I even took the time to go through my wardrobe and remove all the clothes that either do not fit or I will not wear again. I will not write about that.
Back to the post. Being a christian in 2020 – what does that mean? I obviously am pointing to our current situations worldwide that includes quarantines and staying at home. If you are following the recommendations, I respect you and encourage you to keep going. For some that is part of the law, so I respect that you are keeping your christian duty of being subject to the government (Romans 12). But as I write, I realize that this post will be a multi-part thought of mine. I could write about enduring various trials (James 1), I could write about how we could use this time to turn back to God, and I could write about when the virus might actually impede on our faiths. With all those topics, I want to go the unexpected route and not start with enduring trials, but go with the virus impeding on our faiths. The others will come after.
This time has brought the church services away from the buildings and communities, and it has enclosed it into homes of people. We could learn a lesson about what it means to be the Church. So that is where we will start.
Given the closure of church services and recommendations to not go in gathering of 10 or over, I instantly felt anxiety of not being able to worship with people. There were alternatives immediately, like a secret church, but that was turned into a non-secret and shutdown quickly. Then there was a small group of people that would worship at their house which still goes on to this day. They do follow the recommendations, as far as number of people. I attended for two weeks but was met with questions that sparked my anxiety. The situation concerned whether I should protecting my parents or worshiping the way I thought God intended. Being asked the question of why I would still go if I was afraid of protecting my family I gave the answer that I still prioritize God over all. What was probably an innocent question, felt like adversity. That made me anxious for a few days, and finally I asked a local minister about this situation. My previous belief was you needed to be in the presence of other Christians to worship God, but specifically take the Lords Supper. So I was willing to possibly break the law or even get infected if it meant I could commune with others to take communion. Before this was resolved, I’ll give why I believed this.
My go to verse consisted of Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”Matthew 18:20 NASB
To me, if I were to be with the church, I needed to have another, which is a problem in my situation. I find out that this verse I had taken out of context since I first learned about it. I just never revisited it until recently to figure it out. I’ll elaborate on this soon.
Another verse often given is about not forsaking the assembly found in Hebrews:
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB
This one will also be dissected but this will use the power of Greek!
The other reason I felt that communion was needed to be taken with people was because the examples of the Lord Supper were all with other people along with it being called a communion. When Paul talks about communion, he tells them to do it, but in the plural. There is no example of communion done by oneself. One resource I read said that the lack of evidence should not make theology, yet that negates the opposite since the abundance of evidence might be able to make theology. It is a complicated issue that I won’t give an answer to.
If given a good look online, there seems to be a split on this issue and it might come down to the heart. There are viable alternatives that still might help people find peace during these tough times. Many churches, if not all that I have been a part of have always provided communion to people that were not present in the morning. Some have the person giving the communion taking it with them, while others do not. Many churches also have people that can deliver the Lord’s Supper to them if they are shut in, like an elderly or sick person. So what is the answer to this? I warn you, this will be hard to follow and I do not have a good answer at the moment.
Let’s start with Matthew 18:20. I can explain this one quick. I initially thought this verse proved how the church or the kingdom is anywhere that the believers are assembled. But contextually, this does not make much sense. First of all, the implication of this conclusion would then mean that those that are individuals do not have the presence of God. This would mean specifically Christ, which I might agree with, but then it would be complicated if I said Christ was present with the body. This goes against the theology of prayer since it is praying to the Father, using the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Christ. So how can we resolve these conflicts? Turns out the context lends to Christ’s presence to being something concerting discipline in the church. The verse is similar to the the verse in Deuteronomy 19:15 that states that a single witness cannot come up against someone in court. They need the evidence of two or three witnesses to be confirmed in court. Being a mostly Jewish audience that Jesus was talking to, this would have possibly been where the Jews would have compared it to, especially since Jesus was quoting form it earlier. The section of verses this one is present is also deals with a brother’s sin and how to restore them or remove them. Thus, Jesus is present as the authority that those few have when confronting brethren in sin.
The next verse I gave was a Hebrews 10 verse that states not forsaking the assembly. This verse if often one to say that you should never leave the church and always worship with them under all circumstances. This would hit home considering we are being recommended to not hold worship services, and not holding worship would feel like a forsaking of the assembly. Here, lets also look at the context to help us out. A large theme of Hebrews can be seen in the first verse of chapter 2 and throughout the letter. The Hebrew Christians are concerned with their new faith and have been tempted to go back to Judaism as some may have already. They may have expected Christ to come and do not want to wait longer, they may be being persecuted by the Jews, and some might even hear some arguments that might tempt them, but the Hebrew writer is telling them that they have a better covenant in Christ. I recommend studying Hebrews to see the how great we have it in Christ. In chapter 10, the writer is continuing this theme of how Jesus is better, and in verse 18 he states there is no longer a sacrifice for sin because Jesus took care of it. The next verse starts with therefore, so we can know that the verses are connected. We can therefore have confidence in Jesus and draw near to him by with a full assurance of faith. Verse 24 is important as it talks about stimulating one another, which is necessary considering their persecution and outside pressures.
We stimulate one another by not forsaking them. There are two elements here that we can pick out. First, lets look at the Greek. The word for forsake is ἐγκαταλείποντες (enkataleipontes), which is in the present participle active form. What we do not see here is the verb in the imperative form, which is the mood of verbs that shows command. It is the different between saying “I go” and telling you “GO!” If a participle is connected to an imperative, then it makes it a command, but in this case, it is not connected. The implications of this means that not forsaking the church is not a command. Not forsaking the church helps to keep the focus on why we follow Christ, but it does not mean that we should always choose to not interact with them. It not being a command does not mean you can just choose to leave and neglect the assembly. You might have noticed that the verse had a phrase in it that stated “as is habit of some”. This was a problem with the Hebrew Christians. Some would have made it a habit to leave the assembly. This a person that has chosen to do this, this is not a person that is sick or is under pressing circumstances. It is an issue of attitude and heart. God is trying to encourage an attitude of stimulating one another and encouraging each other because it will help with the faith of those in the assembly. So not forsaking one another is not a command, thus is not a sin if you break it, but if it become habit and the motivation behind it is against God’s wish to encourage and stimulate, then you stand in murky water.
Now my biggest problem comes with the examples of communion in the New Testament. There is no example of communion taken by oneself, and by this I mean the Lord’s Supper was always done with people. When Paul instructed how to take the Lord’s Supper, it also is stated in the plural. What we do know is communion was repeated on the first day because of the examples given in Acts like when the church was established (Acts 2:41-42), then Paul is seen to wait until the first day of the week to take the communion (Acts 20:5-7), and various other elements that suggest the Lord’s Supper was taken on the first day, which are Sundays. If you want to learn more, I recommend reading this study over why the communion is observed on the first day of the week. But every time the Lord’s Supper is repeated, it includes people. What do we do about this?
Well here is where things are murky, but I will give it my best shot. First, lets talk about the heart behind it. The Lord’s Supper is meant to remember the sacrifice that Christ did on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:24). It’s a reminder of his sacrifice. So if we remove that meaning, then we are doing it incorrectly. So if we focus to much on the method, and nothing on the purpose, we missed the mark. There is a balance of needing to do it right, but also doing it right (by having it be that remembrance). The people might not be necessary in all this because the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice is not dependent on the amount of people present, but if one decides to remove the people apart from necessity, there might be a problem of heart and motivation.
The next murky thing is we see Paul having been put in prison. I originally assumed he was always with someone, whether they would visit him, or accompany him during his transportation to Rome. I do not have evidence to back this up, but it was an assumption since the examples show how disciples of Christ would go out with others, not alone. It might be a large assumption to say that Paul was always with a believer every first day of the week to partake in communion.
Two more things that might help. Paul mentions a time that one should not take the Lord’s Supper, this does not just suggest, but states that you might not be able to do it. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 states that drinking in an unworthy manner brings judgement upon themselves, so one should examine themselves before doing so. This does not explicitly say do not take it, but it does state what to do beforehand to take the communion. This is murky because it does not exactly state do not take it, just be worthy and examine yourself before it.
Now the last possible resolution, the heart. Why is it that you might not be able to take it? As we stated before, if you are like the “some” from Hebrews 10 that have taken the habit of forsaking the assembly, then you are choosing to leave. You have a problem of your heart with not wanting to assemble and fellowship with your brethren. It might be doubtful that Paul being in prison missed communing with other believers due to malice. Since I know God has such awesome grace and that even Paul struggled with his faith (Romans 7-8), if we are truly trying to figure out what God wants of us, we can be assured that in Christ there is no condemnation.
The real last one, that I forgot but remembered! Maybe technology is connecting us and we are not alone? You see, when we look at technology and the church, we must be careful with how we use it. If technology is used to try and do something to worship because we think it might improve worship, then we might have another problem of heart. Do we not trust in God giving us the correct way to worship? Is video streaming of a worship and communion a tool for the church or a replacement for what we are told to do? You see, lets look at a microphone for example. We use microphones so that we can project our voices through speakers to the church. It does not take that much of a distance to need to find a way to amplify vocals. In this case, a microphone and speakers are tools to project voice, it does not replace or try to improve/change an aspect of God commanded worship. Is video streaming services like that? What is the difference between being together in a large room but being on opposite sides, and being together on video, but at a larger distance? That is a question you have to ask. Are you alone, or are you together? I do not know here. Maybe let me know what you think in the comments.
The definite answer
This post was very difficult to write. I was initially planing to write about my resolution, but as I was researching this, I only became more and more confused and now I have to reconsider my theology of what are we commanded to do. It took much longer to write because of this confusion, and my answer is not an answer. But this is the reason we ponder. We should always challenge our preconceived beliefs so that we can get closer to truth. Jesus said that if we love him, we would follow his commandments. So, if we are struggling to figure out what we should do, then our hearts might be in the right place. If we let this be an excuse to no longer assemble or to take the Lord’s Supper with others when we can, then our hearts are not in the right place. We should show God that we love him by challenging our belief and changing if we are wrong, not sticking to our pride and refusing to admit being not correct.
What do you think?