Here’s news for the day after Valentine’s Day: crows mate for life. So do geese, whooping cranes, beavers, bald eagles, seahorses, coyotes, and termites. (Did you know that termites mate? Do you care?)
Some evolutionists aren’t surprised. According to author Christopher Kukk, biologists from Charles Darwin to E. O. Wilson believe that “cooperation has been more important than competition in humanity’s evolutionary success.” Kukk adds, “Compassion is the reason for both the human race’s survival and its ability to continue to thrive as a species.”
You don’t have to be an evolutionist to agree that God made us for compassionate community. This exhortation is just one biblical example: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet 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).
Note the phrase “not neglecting to meet together.” What happens when we disobey?
How our “starving souls” will be “eternally filled”
According to Harvard University, regularly attending religious services is associated with lower risks of “deaths of despair” related to suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning. A new study agrees, noting that the increase in “deaths of despair” in the early 1990s was preceded by a decline in religious participation.
Writing for Christianity Today, Hillsdale College professor Adam Carrington offers three reasons why.
First, without the community of the church, we lack full communion with God.
Christ reveals his presence when we gather in his name (Matthew 18:20). We experience him more fully when his word is preached, he is glorified in worship, and he is experienced through the ordinances or sacraments of the church.
Second, Carrington notes, without the church, we lack full knowledge of God.
From the early Christians who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), to the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day” together (Acts 17:11 NIV), to churches who teach God’s word to each other today, we grow in our faith when we grow together.
Third, without the church, we lose authentic, restored human community.
When Christ restores us to himself in salvation, he restores us to each other as members of his body. We are now to serve those in need together as we serve our Lord (Matthew 25:40).
Carrington concludes: “In the end, a healthy church community encourages those in despair with the hope of final glory. Then our starving souls will be finally and eternally filled at the wedding supper of the Lamb depicted in Revelation. All tears will be wiped away, and death will be no more—and despair itself will be cast into hell.”
Why people are coming to Asbury
The ongoing revival at Asbury University we discussed yesterday is a case in point.
Every Great Awakening in American history began in Christian community. In fact, the familiar 2 Chronicles 7:14 text so often associated with revival begins, “If my people who are called by my name . . . .” Only then does it call us to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways so that he might “hear from heaven” and “forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Jesus’ first followers experienced the miracle of Pentecost when “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). Those who would experience a similar move of the Spirit must be united in community as well.
There is a reason people have been coming to Asbury from far and wide to join together in their auditorium for collective worship and prayer. Rather than calling his people into solitary spirituality, the Lord is calling them closer to himself and thus to each other.
If you and I would join and advance such a transforming movement of God’s Spirit, we must do so in community as well.
Taking a coal from the fire
Here’s the problem: Satan loves to isolate God’s people because he knows the power of unity in God’s Spirit. Western culture from ancient Greece to today has joined the conspiracy, claiming with Protagoras (490–420 BC) that “man is the measure of all things.” Note the singular, “man,” rather than the plural, “men.”
Capitalism depends on consumption and thus conditions us to be consumers. Social media measures success by popularity and makes people a means to the end of our “likes” and “follows.” Relativism defines truth as personal and makes us the arbiter of our own identity and reality.
Take a live coal from the fire and it goes out. Put a dead coal in the fire and it comes to life.
Have our spiritual enemy and our secularized culture been isolating your soul? Being identified with a denomination or even a local church is not enough. The question is: Are you engaged in intentional community within the body of Christ?
We are commanded to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
Whose burdens are you bearing today?
Who is bearing yours?