Rule #12 in the Newton household: Homework must be completed every day before you can play. My boys may not always enjoy this rule, but the self-discipline and education gained through doing homework is good for them. Accordingly, if I tell them to trot into their study area to do their homework, at times they are entitled to say, “dad, I do not have to study now, I have completed my obligation.”
Now imagine the disaster which would follow if a husband told his wife, “honey, I do not have to spend time talking with you right now, I have already completed my duty.” Or if we back this scenario up to the courtship, would any girl want to date a guy who acted like his time with her involved fulfilling the obligation of an assignment? Totally absurd!
While healthy relationships are characterized by each individual working hard to put love into action, for them it is a labor of love. They want to sacrifice time, energy, and money for their beloved. For a guy who is in love, there is no need to enforce a list of rules about how he must spend his time and money with the girl he is courting. He wants to be with her because his heart motivates him.
So when God looks into our hearts as we think about joining together with the saints to praise him and study his word, what attitude does he see? Do we approach attending services as rule-based homework or a love-based relationship?
Sadly, people who say: “Well, the Bible does not say that I have to attend every time” or “Where’s the rule that I have to go to Bible Class” have simply missed the point. Such questions betray their hearts even to the rest of us nearsighted humans. These are thoughts that bubble up from a heart that is more in love with other activities or pleasures than joining together with other saints to praise God and learn of his will.
Probably part of the reason why we do not find within God’s message a list of rules about attending worship services is the same reason why wives do not post a list of rules for how their husbands must show them love. Wives desire their husband’s hearts, not just ritualistic duty. Worship is all about God, not us. Worship is our response to what God has already done for us.
God has given us every reason to be filled with love and gratitude toward him. The natural response to grasping the depth and extent of God’s love-based service toward us involves worshipping in spirit and in truth.
Do we need to grow in our attitude toward church attendance? Our focus should not be upon what we could be doing. Neither should we gravitate to the foibles of those with whom we will be worshipping. Rather, meditate on the gravity and extensiveness of our sin and God’s grace to us through Jesus’ sacrifice. We may be amazed at what happens.