For most of my life, I thought that the most important activity for a Christian was to attend church or mass on Sundays. I’m not sure if I was just ignorant of what everyone else knew, or if this was the common mentality. To be honest, I kind of thought that going to church was both the beginning and end of being a Christian. I’m afraid that, even if we don’t admit it, for too many Christians, attending service on Sunday allows us to feel as if we have attained the highest achievement possible in our lives. Maybe so many only go occasionally so that it can mean more when they do.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote about some of the things that should be the focus of a worship service. As I read and study his letter, I can’t help but think that I was not only wrong about what going to church was supposed to mean to the Christian, but I was dead wrong! Paul wrote about how he considered himself to be the most sinful of people (1:15), and yet God showed him grace. He intentionally lowered himself for the sake of elevating others. He wrote to Timothy about the importance of perseverance for the sake of sharing that grace with others (1:15-20).
Then he wrote:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1-4 NIV)
Paul had told Timothy that the first thing they needed to do was to pray, intercede, and be thankful for every person, including the leaders and kings who had persecuted them, proved to be corrupt, and absolutely exploited them for personal gain. Paul urged Timothy to teach the church body that they were to gather for the sake of others. This is a key to what Church is supposed to be about.
God’s desire is that no one would face an eternal death. God’s desire is that every person would quit resisting the truth and allow Him to show them grace and to bring them life. God’s love and grace are extended to every person who would receive it. Is ours? You see, when church becomes this thing we do as the highlight of the Christian’s week, then church becomes about the Christian. However, when church becomes the opportunity to humble oneself before God and raise others up to Him—even those who persecute, hate, oppress, or exploit us—then worship becomes for the sake of others. This, according to Paul, “pleases God”. Maybe pleasing God is not a bad idea for the Christian!
Often, we hear people talk about “their” church. I know I talk about Mercy Springs that way, it’s “my” church. The popular campaign that many churches have been using over the last couple of years has been “I love my church!” That’s great! We should love our church. It does, however, remind us that our common Christian belief about church is that it is for me. It’s not. It’s for everyone else.
I need to attend regular church services and worship…and grow…and be humbled…and pray, intercede, and be thankful for others. I need to do this so that I can love others better. I need to do this so that I can stop thinking about what God can do for me and instead, consider how He can change me so that I will better serve others. I need Him to change me so that I can love others enough to help them come to know the God who poured His grace out upon me. See, it’s not “my” Church. It’s His, and He wants that person that I despise, or that you despise, to receive His grace as freely as you or I did. Consider that the next time you attend your church. I pray it changes our outlook to be more like Christ’s.
Grafted by His Grace,
Pastor Raul Granillo