I was way too tired to go to church. Every molecule craved sleep. We were in Portland for a birthday party the day before and didn’t get home until late. Early the next morning, Sunday morning, Jesus’ words came to mind, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
“I’m so grateful for those words,” I said to myself. And I decided to sleep in.
And I know that would have been fine in the eyes of the Father, to sleep in on Sunday morning. But suddenly I found myself awake somehow. It was one of those mornings when I somehow just couldn’t continue to sleep. So I jumped in the car and headed to church. And when I was there, I heard these words:
“Be gracious to people. Be as kind as you possibly can.”
He was teaching on the woman caught in adultery. A teaching I’ve heard a hundred times. I didn’t realize it at that moment, but I was going to have an unusual number of “opportunities” to forgive, and to be gracious, and to show kindness to those around me that Sunday afternoon and the rest of the week. And later it hit me that, had I not heard those words, when faced with these “opportunities,” I would have responded with criticism and irritation at best, anger at worst. I would have been a different person that week had I not been in church to hear those words Sunday morning. How I needed to hear those exact words, at that exact time.
I knew guys who experienced the same thing in sports. There was a guy named John Scott on my basketball team. He was short (5′ 11″), and skinny, and slow–other than that he had all the physical gifts of a great basketball player. But he was a gym rat. And he always seemed to be ready for whatever the other team threw at him. Coincidentally, it seemed to me, he often had recently practiced for the exact thing the other team threw at him. But the thing is, it didn’t matter what the other team threw at John Scott, because he spent so much time in the gym, he was always ready for what the other team threw at him.
I on the other hand wasn’t like John Scott. I was a bench warmer. When I did have opportunity to play it was on the B-team. “The B-team Bombers” they used to call us. I liked entertainment. So instead of spending time in the gym practicing basketball, I stayed home and watched basketball on TV, or I watched some other television program, or I read sci-fi, or I chased girls.
Then when the other team threw something at me, not surprisingly, I wasn’t ready.
And that’s how it is with church. When I’m going to church, I’m prepared for what life throws at me. I’m ready for what people throw at me. I’m ready for “opportunities” to forgive people, to be gracious, to be kind. The man who puts in his time in the gym, becomes a different player.
The man who spends his time in church, becomes a different person.
God loves you too much to let you stay the same. God wants you to flourish. God wants you to grow. God wants you to thrive.
Become a different person.
Go to church.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42
[Image via Lynn Friedman – Creative Commons]