A recent blog of mine, You Might Need to Stop Going to Church For Awhile, got some attention. A follow up is in order. First, let me be clear; the blog was not an anti-Sunday church rant. I attend a gathering each Sunday and am very happy to be a part of a local congregation.
The blog was about how easily our righteous actions can become self-righteous actions. When that happens, they lose their value and should be put off until we can figure out what went wrong and correct it. That includes the typically righteous action of attending a Sunday church service. If through attendance, you develop an inflated opinion of yourself because you go to church while other lessers are worried about the pandemic, or are more lazy and undisciplined than you, or don’t prioritize that gathering as highly as you think they should than the chances are high that you’ve fallen into the “Me = good, them = bad trap. Your badge of righteousness has become your church attendance record. You can be assured that no one is smiling in heaven for all your efforts to get out of bed on Sunday morning.
If Jesus weighed in on the matter, he would probably be saying something like.
“Better to leave your church pew a little dusty and enter heaven than have a perfect attendance record and enter the fires of hell.”
If church attendance has become the conduit for self-righteousness, then more church attendance is not the solution. Repentance is the solution. Getting together with some friends for a while to talk it out is a solution. Forming a small prayer group and spending the Sunday hour listening for God is a solution. Doing whatever it takes to reorient yourself around loving Jesus and loving others is the solution. Maybe that means sharing in a soup kitchen on Sundays or helping the poor and disenfranchised in ways where you get a little grime under your fingernails. It might mean taking a season of Sundays to help a neighbour work through some stuff.
Its Jesus who had a notoriously hard time keeping the Sabbath. To put it bluntly for the modern reader — He skipped church! Much to the consternation of his religious headmasters. Jesus refused to fall into the age-old trap of letting religious rituals become the source of selfish pride. As his followers, we should be equally on guard. Unfortunately, I believe Jesus would be getting “tsk-tsk’d” and lectured by so many today who can’t seem to see Christianity as much of anything beyond the Sunday gathering.
Jesus says if you are at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you leave the altar and go make things right with your him. Sadly, for many Christians today, this would be an impossibility. Making peace with another human is all well and good, but only after the benediction concludes the Sunday morning service.