Following Jesus is not a Virtual Experience

I have a confession. I have become lazy in the last 12 months. In the early months of the pandemic, our church did not hold in person services, so if I wanted to connect with the body of Christ, I had to participate on-line. As the restrictions eased, I found it is so much easier to watch church on-line from the comfort of our living room. Then this morning, I joined the prayer time with both my audio and video off. I did not want to be seen or heard. While those things are fine on occasion, I realize following Jesus and being in fellowship with other believers is not a virtual experience. It is not watching a you tube video of a great sermon (and there are many) and getting on to the next thing in my day.

I worry I am in danger of becoming like the person in James who looks in a mirror and comes away unchanged – a hearer of the word and not a doer. When I hear and hoard, I am not really following Jesus. It is not how much I know or how much that message spoke to me but how the word of God transforms me to love God and others. As appealing as it is to remain in the shadows, I feel God’s prodding to be present and participating not merely observing and listening.

I have no doubt God hears me and is present with me as much when I am alone as when I am with others, but I find there are things that happen in community that don’t happen in my living room. I see others experiencing joys and hurts who are following Jesus through the mountains and valleys which strengthens my own resolve to persevere and to keep my focus on God. I may encounter someone (perhaps I have never spoken to them) to encourage or to simply look into their eyes to communicate that they are valued and matter very much to Jesus. Sometimes being with people is hard because their personalities or opinions rub me like sandpaper, but even in this God can refine me.

Admittedly, I will continue to watch services on-line at times and may not always speak or show my face during our prayer times, but I will also not choose comfort over being present. Following Jesus together strengthens me, challenges me, and shines light on my blind spots in ways that being alone with Jesus does not.

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