«Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! . . . For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore».Psalm 133:1, 3
IN A TIME in which individuality rules, it’s normal even for Christians to question what the role of the church is. If salvation is individual, what sense does it make to share a communal experience in a church building? Perhaps a story told by John MacArthur will help illustrate the role the church plays for a twenty-first century believer.
MacArthur says that a pastor visited one of his members who had unexpectedly stopped attending church. Sitting by the warmth of the fireplace, the pastor was silent, but he took the tongs and separated a burning ember from the rest, leaving it on its own on one side of the hearth. «Very soon the ember’s flame died, and the pastor took it and put it back with the other embers in the fireplace; it sprang back to life as it caught the flames.»* Then the man understood the moral: embers keep on burning if they are together.
A few years ago, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center published the results of a meta-analysis study that revealed that attending church weekly could add three years to one’s life. According to Daniel Hall, the study leader, «there is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect.»»
Human beings were not created to live alone, because loneliness would make their lives fade and be extinguished. For that reason, being part of a community of faith provides human life with meaning, because it keeps us alive spiritually. As the psalmist said, «How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmow!» (Psalm 133: 1, NLT).
When we gather as a church we are sharing our spiritual experience and, thus, we «warm» one another. The Bible describes the church as a «family of faith» (Galatians 6:10, NLT) and as «God’s family» (Ephesians 2:19, NLT). In Jesus we have all been called and chosen to be part of the heavenly family. We are different, but we are part of the family.
The church is your family; it’s the place where individual embers keep each other burning in their spiritual lives, and, as the psalmist said, «there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore» (Psalm 133:3).