I wonder whether sometimes we take it for granted that we can gather. Certainly, we’ve gotten a taste of not gathering as we have endured the COVID-19 pandemic. We know a little more now about what it’s like to not be able to see each other.
We’ve heard reports in the general public about the negative effects of social distancing. Depression and suicide are up, they say. This makes sense to us because people were not designed to be alone, nor were they designed to adapt easily in situations when they are forced to be apart.
But our COVID-19 troubles as a church likely pale in comparison to the “social distancing” that existed between Paul and the Thessalonian church – and so many churches he knew and loved. Paul was physically distant from the church, and he missed it. Persecution and suffering seemed to be happening in Thessalonica, and Paul was desperate to find out how things were going there. He said he could “bear it no longer.”
And Christians, in those days, were still relatively rare. It was not like Paul simply could walk down the street to find another collection of believers. To find those with a similar faith and a similar hope was a precious thing indeed. It must have been like coming home any time a Christian found a group like that.
And Paul was hungry for it.
We probably take it for granted. Even in these COVID days, we’ve found ways to get together. And without COVID, there’s no stopping us from getting together. There’s no difficulty in distance. We have the time. We have a place. And we face no persecution – not really, not yet.
And so we read about Paul’s longing for the Thessalonian church, and we might wonder why he was that way. We may not fully connect with him.
The lesson for us may be to be thankful every time we do gather. We ought to soak up every minute of Christian fellowship we can find.