This is a continuing story of a confrontation I had with another brother regarding Hebrews 10:25. Before reading on you might want to read yesterday’s blog. When I received his email, I let things settle for a bit so I could respond after some prayer and thought. I didn’t just want to react. Later that day I sent him the following… (His emails are in italics; my responses are inset in blue.)
I would have thought that our relationship would have made a way for more communication on this subject before you’d come to such a final conclusion and export it to others. Is relationship something you only talk about, or something you live deeply? Evidently to you I’m someone to use for publicity when you want our book to get out and someone to accuse when we don’t see something exactly the same way. I am honestly amazed that you did not even extend to me the courtesy of a phone call to ensure that you were not misunderstanding my point of view. Did I just dream of our past occasions of fellowship, of being in your home and gathering with believers you love? You might want to take a long, hard look at why you chose this course rather than exhausting every effort to sort things out with a brother first.
And I am not sure what kind of damage you are referring to, but if people in your group or some other are using something I wrote to excuse themselves or encourage others to isolation and independence, then rest assured they are misrepresenting my writings on the subject just as you are doing. If that has hurt the group you gather with in some way, I deeply regret it and would do anything in my power to help bring clarity and healing.
If I had known your first email was the beginning of an Inquisition I would have given you an exhaustive answer to your question so that you would not have had occasion to misunderstand me. I thought we were two brothers talking together and wanted you to understand the emphasis I placed on the Scripture in question for the article you referred to. You used that little bit of information in a hurried email to make sweeping conclusions about my life. Is that really how you want to do this?
As to responding further to you, I’ll admit to being a bit remiss to do so. It has been my experience that once someone moves outside of relational life to make an accusation with such finality as you have chosen to do with such a limited exchange between us on this subject, further conversation becomes counterproductive as anything I say to clarify my view will only be distorted further to embellish an erroneous accusation. But because I believe our past fellowship had some reality in it, I’m going to venture in a little further in hope that God will grant us understanding and renew our friendship in him.
And even if we do end up disagreeing on the interpretation of Hebrews 10, I would recommend you save accusations like ‘false teaching’ for those who diminish the Lordship of Jesus Christ to draw people into their own sphere of power and influence. (Please reread II Peter and Jude.) If you think my article rises to that level of false teaching, then have at it, Brother. I don’t claim to be right about everything I share, but it is as right as I know it to be at the moment. I am a brother still in process and if God has more to show to me on this point, I am more than willing to listen, change and print any needed retractions. You can’t read any of my writings without knowing my firm conviction that we are all people being shaped by Jesus and that none of us has a corner on all God’s truth. That’s why he calls us to grow together. I doubt we have significant differences in the major tenants of our faith or passion for the Lord Jesus and his people.
It would seem to me that our only difference in thought is whether this one Scripture in Hebrews 10 is dealing with the heart inviting us to oneness with the body or whether it obligates us to go to a meeting. Is this ‘assembling’ an act of the heart or an act of the body? Does this sound like a difference worthy of your response? My interpretation includes yours. People living in oneness of Father’s family will gather together. But if it imposes on us an obligation to a meeting then attendance fulfills the objective whether or not people live in the reality of those relationships.
Please don’t misrepresent me on this point, I have never discouraged brothers and sisters from gathering together. Far from it! I encourage it all the time in a variety of settings. But my emphasis in responding to you was that people can assemble in the same geographical setting without assembling in their hearts and live in the reality of Christ’s church in the world. Thus they sit in a meeting but do not openly give their hearts to others. In that case the meeting is a substitute for them, not an expression of the church. If they go home to chase pornography on the Internet or berate their spouse in anger, what good has it done for them to attend a meeting? They are no more a part of the church’s life for having done it.
I don’t disagree that the word in Hebrews 10 is primarily used of meetings, but I want people to see the reality behind those meetings. Besides, that word and its derivatives are also used to talk about something far more relational than mere meetings. Jesus uses it of the chicks gathering under him in the encroaching fire, or of the saints gathering to him at the second coming. The primary emphasis in these uses is not meetings, but the relationship that calls them together. If the church can only be the church when it gathers, then the church in your city is never the church because it never gathers together. How does that make sense? The church is a reality and it expresses itself in whatever locality, as it acts together on his behalf. Thus two brothers going to a prison to share the life of Jesus is the church acting just as much as 20 people meeting in a home studying Scripture. Why not celebrate the church in all its expressions instead of using this verse to obligate people to one specific form that you embrace? Or am I missing something here?
I think your interpretation creates far more difficulties than mine. If we fulfill Hebrews 10 by just attending a meeting, which meetings are those and how often (daily, weekly, monthly)? I think we’d both agree that there are many meetings this weekend in your city that will claim to be the church that won’t reflect even a smidgen of God’s life or his priorities. Does going to one of those meetings fulfill Hebrews 10? I can’t see how you’d think that. In fact I think obligation is a funny way to try to work with people in the aftermath of the New Covenant and that may be where we really differ. I am convinced that Jesus changes us from the inside out, not the outside in and I would rather equip someone with a passion for body life that allows them to experience its reality than to get them merely committed to a meeting. Even the context of Hebrews 10 is not just getting to a meeting, but living lives that encourage and stimulate others in knowing him. My point is simply this, and I can’t imagine why you would disagree with it: If we give people a heart for Christ’s church you will never need to obligate them to meet together because you won’t be able to keep them apart. For these people obligation is a cheap substitute.
I suspect you see value in committing someone to a meeting as his or her fulfillment of church life. If so, we do see that a bit differently but I don’t see any evidence for that in the example or teachings of Jesus who never prescribed a set kind of meeting that qualified as church. I do see him aff