Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scattered Sheep

Are you still waiting in the hallway of Christianity which C.S.Lewis described in a previous post? Do you have strong convictions, yet have still not found a door where you feel able to enter without peril? A door behind which you will find a welcome, a home, a chair that you can pull up to the fire or to the table, where you can feast, you can find love, you can know you will be nurtured. A place where when you go there, you will be able to join in to edify others there and be part of a body of Christ. A place where your sacrifice of praise and worship will be offered in spirit and in truth. It will not be a room where there will be no sin. On the contrary, you will have confidence that when there is sin, all the occupants will be loving and laboring to deal with that sin and make it right and restore fellowship once more. It will not be a perfect place, but a lived in one. It will be one where you might expect to run into Christ frequently.

Once you have lived in the hallway for a season or two, you will begin to be quoted one particular verse from the Scriptures, almost more than any other. It is meant to bring you to your knees, to cause you to repent, to hurry up and pick a door and just start being obedient for heaven's sake. It is usually quoted by those who have no problem with that particular verse. It is Hebrews 10:25, "...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some..."

It little matters that with your whole heart and soul you are longing for a place to worship God in spirit and truth, and that for various reasons, God has denied you in your search and prayer. It little matters that you have searched, visited, inquired after a church. It little matters that you love God and are in such grief and loneliness because of sitting in the hallway. You are having to learn to trust God even there. All that matters is that you are not "going to church".

When did "assembling yourselves together" get to be the litmus test for true Christianity? This has become apparent whether in college applications, seeking insurance coverage, wanting your children to play in Christian sports, or in others interacting with you. It has come down to whether or not you are "attending a local church at least three weeks out of four". I understand in this generation there has to be some delineation between some one who is serious about their faith and someone who is not, but this is not a fair estimation and neither is it a Biblical one.

The Scriptures say, "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:17) That would mean we would have to take the time to observe, to get to know, to learn of the other person and their life, to consider what the fruits are. Is there love for God, do they try to live according to His principles? What is their family like and what kind of children are they raising? What is the fruit? I have met many people in the hallway whose fruit is absolutely beautiful yet their hearts are longing for that room where they belong but have yet to find.

And these same questions are on scattered sheep's minds as they try to faithfully evaluate potential churches: what is the fruit of this church? Do the leaders uphold Biblical doctrines both in their preaching and personal lives? Do the people have a heart to welcome and to love strangers and to entertain them through hospitality with open hearts and open homes? Is sin amongst the members handled in loving, Scriptural ways? What is the current fruit in the lives of the people? It seems there are many modern day Pharisees who keep the Sabbath but do not have any life within them.

But God is faithful because the entire passage in Hebrews 10 says this, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up LOVE and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." We need to learn to consider one another to stir up LOVE and good works, especially within individual lives, families, and church bodies.

We can also take heart from Ezekiel 34. There are other scattered sheep out there who have been trampled upon. There are other scattered sheep who when they were weak were not strengthened, when they were sick were not healed, when they were broken were not bound, who when they were driven away were not sought after or brought back, who have been ruled with force and cruelty, who have been treated with partiality, who were scattered, and for whom the LORD is searching "to deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day." He promises to bring us into rich pasture, to cause us to lie down and feed in good pasture, and to provide what the shepherds of Israel failed to do. "Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel are My people, says the Lord GOD."

Our wait in the hallway can be long, but we ARE in the hallway because of the gracious kindness of God our Saviour. And some day, He will give us the gift of one of those rooms and it will be ours, not because we deserved any of it, but because of His gracious kindness and mercy. The hope is that those already enjoying a room will be thoughtful and kind to those who have not yet been given that joy, remembering all that we have and are is an undeserved gift. Perhaps through the consideration and stirring up to LOVE, those who have a room will be able to draw in the scattered sheep and they can dwell together in unity.

----posted by Queen Lucy

1 comment:

AnnaS said...

my heart breaks when I read this. ((((HUGS))) Anna