Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (NLT)
When Jesus’ followers gather together, there is an expectation that they will feel safe. The big bad world contains lots of threats and arouses lots of fears, so it is good to come to a place of refuge, of shelter.
We don’t long to be in a church where we are harangued about giving more money or spending more time on pursuing what is said to be the vision of the church. We don’t want church to be yet another place of the grinding demand, another place where we are addressed as consumers by religious marketeers.
So far so good. But neither do we gather together just to feel all nice and comfy. We meet to encourage one another to move on, to grow, to be better equipped to engage with a sometimes-hostile world. We expect to be challenged, to realise that while God loves us just as we are, he longs for us to grow in maturity.
Christian gatherings don’t take the pain of life away. They are not exercises in escapism. And yet they help us bear the pain. They help us put who we are and what we face into the wider and deeper context of the love of God for us shown by Jesus. They are both a welcome refuge and a springboard for action.
Our gatherings are reality checks. One reality is the comfort that God gives us through our gatherings. The other reality is that can rely on his presence to sustain us in all the inevitable discomforts of life. We should leave such gatherings feeling both safe and uncomfortable.