On Sunday June 7, 2020 West Park Baptist Church will meet in person once again.
It’s hard to believe that over the past 3 months we’ve not seen one another, and it’s with joy and excitement that we look forward to Sunday. Who are the people that we might see?
There’s the wife and working mom with 2 young kids. At the beginning of the pandemic she was told she had to work her full-time job at home while her kids stayed home full-time from school. It’s been a juggling routine to feel all there for any of those involved in her daily routine, and the work-from-home order continues for another few months. She’s in need of encouragement and is eager to get back to worship.
There’s the man whose wife is in the midst of trying times with chemotherapy. He’s caring for her daily on top of the trying times brought by the pandemic. He’s coming back to church to serve, while being as careful as he can.
There’s a senior saint who has been sheltered at home for several months and likely won’t be back to worship just yet. But she’s praying for and contacting others. She’s thinking through how the Lord wants her to respond in the relationships He’s entrusted to her.
Gathering as a church is not just about seeing friends and family or feeling connected once again to God and others, as important as those things are. Gathering as a church is about following the Spirit’s lead together as we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, walking in the Spirit and producing spiritual fruit is a community project. Abiding in Jesus Christ is a personal matter, but it is never private. Jesus wills us for us to follow Him in the company of the family He’s creating. So my aim in this final installment of “Abide” is to help you get ready to put the fruit in practice as you start regularly encountering others once again.
First, consider the many many times the Fruit of the Spirit is commanded in the “one another” passages in the New Testament letters:
Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 14:13 – Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Ephesians 4:2 – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
There are so many passages I could include, but I think you get the gist of God’s will for you and me. What remains, though, is to think through what humility and love and encouragement look like as we regather. Let me suggest a few ways.
- Humility – People will be coming back to church with all kinds of opinions and convictions about how to act. Some will wear masks to protect themselves or those they are trying to minister to at home, and some will not because they think that perhaps everything about the virus is overblown. Humility may look like (please not that I’m not saying it must or should look like) wearing a mask going in and out of the building for the sake of another’s needs. Humility is the posture of counting others as more significant than yourself.
- Love – Love might need to be exhibited by refraining from the hug you want to give for maybe another week or two as we take careful steps forward. Those “careful steps” are in line with Pastor Sam’s message on “Going to Church and Being the Church” and Pastor Doug’s video announcement last week.
- Encouragement – Words are powerful. When you come, share truth and love with one another. Share your joy at being back, but pray that God the Holy Spirit would help you to walk by His lead, no matter what the needs are in front of you. Pray, seriously pray, that God would use you for the encouragement of others in this time.
It would please the Lord so much to see His family walking in the Spirit together, eager to bear fruit to the praise of the Father. We’re in this together. Praise the Lord He’s with us always!
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control