In early 2020, the lives of people around
the world drastically changed as governments attempted to contain and minimize
the impacts of COVID-19. Strict rules and regulations were imposed to ban or
restrict gatherings, while social distancing requirements compelled churches to
cease in-person worship services. As a result, the True Jesus Church (TJC) in
different locations moved to online worship through various media platforms,
enabling members worldwide to worship without borders. This created many
additional opportunities for individual spiritual cultivation that may have
been impossible pre-pandemic. So despite the limitations, I gained many
blessings during this period, as the Holy Spirit helped me to conquer my
weaknesses and build stronger relationships with brothers- and
As COVID-19 restrictions have eased,
churches globally have resumed in-person worship services and activities.
Members may return to the church to joyfully observe the Sabbath instead of
joining a live stream from home. Regardless of how long we may have worshipped
from home, the opportunity to gather at church again is exciting. Human beings
are inherently social creatures needing companionship and connection.
Returning to in-person worship is something
to celebrate and give thanks for. But for some, the prospect of returning to
church may be daunting. Once we are accustomed to the convenience of
worshipping at home, we may feel anxious about exposing ourselves to the virus
or reluctant to commute to and from church.
When COVID-19 restrictions eased in our
city, I felt hesitant about returning to church, but for very different
Why Did I Feel Reluctant To Return?
At the beginning of the pandemic, my family
settled comfortably into worship at home. The family altar was part of our
daily life before the pandemic, so transitioning to online worship was easy,
and we were able to set apart the Sabbath day by devoting more time to prayer.
Sometimes we prayed with overseas family members after the conclusion of our
local live stream services. We grasped opportunities to attend church events
and fellowships worldwide, giving us much-needed spiritual cultivation and the
chance to draw closer to God. It was a time of blessed spiritual growth.
For quite some time, I had felt that
members in my local church were merely brothers- and sisters-in-Christ,
different from close friends and not quite family. I had moved to the area many
years before but still felt that, other than faith, I had nothing in common
with the brethren. Part of this sentiment stemmed from my inability to accept
the imperfections of others, my reserved personality, and cultural differences.
Additionally, the social cliques seemed more apparent because the church is
smaller than the one in which I grew up. Being an introvert makes small talk
challenging, so I lacked the confidence to break through these barriers.
In contrast, when I visited the TJC in
other locations previously, I felt genuine love from being part of the one true
church with the abidance of the Holy Spirit. Even when attending online
seminars, I feel a strong connection with my brothers and sisters even though I
have never physically met them. These connections are the work of the Holy
Spirit within our hearts and evidence of the love of God that abides in us (1Jn
BE PERFECT JUST AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT
Love Our Brethren
“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your
enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for
those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father
in heaven. …Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is
perfect.” (Mt 5:43–48)
Here, Jesus tells us that we must overcome
our innate human instinct of only loving those who love us and hating our
enemies. Instead, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us
so that we can be called sons of God.
Hatred and dislike, prevalent in our sinful
nature, are significant obstacles to reaching perfection. It is easier to love
those who love us but difficult to love those with whom we do not see eye to
eye. Therefore, Paul reminds us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds
(Rom 12:2), through applying God’s word and following the Holy Spirit’s
guidance to help us grow in the likeness of Christ.
let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of
God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1Jn
We may not hate our brethren but, instead,
feel indifferent toward them. Indifference is not an expression of love, as it
denotes being devoid of feeling. Further along the scale, dislike often stems
from differences of opinion or mindset, which can lead to hate if left
unresolved. If we rationalize and accept our dislike of others, it hinders us
from being like our heavenly Father. Our heavenly Father is righteous,
merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Love is, therefore,
an essential characteristic of spiritual perfection. Hence, we must love as the
Lord Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5.
No one has
seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love
has been perfected in us. (1 Jn 4:12)
Overcoming My Mindset
Our mindset often affects our ability to
see things clearly. Our pride and innate nature may cloud our judgement and we
become unaware of our imperfections. A minister once made a comment to me in a
not-very-tactful manner. Despite recognizing the good intentions, I felt
wounded. After the incident, I shared what had happened with another sister,
who told me the minister would have spoken similarly to her. This made me
realize that my mindset or pride led me to think that the minister looked down
on me, causing deep resentment. Thankfully, God changed my attitude in prayer,
and those feelings disappeared. The Holy Spirit will guide and teach us if we
spend time in prayer, meditating, and reflecting on God’s word.
Before returning to in-person services,
there were prayer requests for terminally ill members and their families. While
praying for them, I felt more connected to them in Christ. They were no longer
merely brothers and sisters. I started to care for them genuinely. In the same
way, when I posted a prayer request on social media in my time of need, my
heart was overwhelmed with a feeling of love and warmth that can only come from
God through the prayers of family-in-Christ.
In the past, as I got to know different
members, I would quickly notice their weaknesses or flaws. As I have developed
more friendships and connections within the church, my eyes have been opened to
see the strengths and positive character of others instead. Endeavoring to set
aside some quiet time each morning to intercede for others also helped me
overcome my previous mindset. The Holy Spirit transformed my heart, drawing me
closer to my family-in-Christ. This was confirmed when one day, a sister
started chatting with me. She seemed to be making a particular effort to engage
with me around the church. My heart instinctively knew that this was the work
of the Holy Spirit, allowing me to connect with her.
One in Christ
For as the
body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being
many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized
into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been
made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
(1 Cor 12:12–14)
Through baptism, our sins are forgiven, and
we become one in Christ. God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us in our
spiritual journey (Jn 14:26), cultivating and strengthening us. We can be
renewed through the Spirit and truth and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice
with our brethren-in-Christ.
Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and
precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a
holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through
Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:4–5)
One living stone, combined with many other
living stones, builds up a spiritual house to become a royal priesthood
offering up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. This one body can
only achieve spiritual perfection when all parts cooperate and work together to
help one other in Christ (Eph 4:16). From these verses, I understood that we
cannot walk this spiritual journey alone and apart from our fellow members.
Emulate the Humility of Our Lord Jesus
In Philippians 2:2–9, Paul exhorts us to be
like-minded, have the same love, to be of one accord and one mind. We must
esteem others as better than ourselves, in humility, just as our Lord Jesus
Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross.
Let us examine ourselves to recognize our
weaknesses, assessing ourselves by God’s standards to overcome them in prayer.
Suppose we have a difference of opinion with another member that does not
conflict with the truth. In this case, we should humbly consider how we can be
of one mind instead of expecting others to conform to our opinions. Through the
Holy Spirit, God will help us overcome our nature and be forgiving, accepting,
and understanding, to prevent misunderstandings that could cause us to stumble.
“Judge not, and you shall not be
judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be
forgiven.” (Lk 6:37)
If we do not gather at church and interact
with our fellow brethren, we will not be able to see where we fall short of
God’s standard. For myself, I realized I had pride and the wrong mindset. In
the eyes of God, we are far from perfect, yet He patiently embraces us with all
our shortcomings, giving us opportunities to sanctify ourselves with His word
and the Holy Spirit. Though differences between brethren may arise, should we
not embrace one another with the same love and forgiveness God bestows on us?
Online Worship versus In-Person Worship
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but
exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Though I experienced the joy and
convenience of online worship and fellowship, they are incomparable to the
benefits of gathering in person. The sensation of praising God with the
congregation or the sound of prayer enveloping us are much more powerful than
experiencing them through speakers or earphones. When my son received the Holy
Spirit at home, he felt uncertain. A week later at church, a minister confirmed
that my son had received the Holy Spirit. My son told me that all his doubts
had disappeared when he knelt to pray in the chapel, because he felt the power
of the Holy Spirit when the whole congregation joined in prayer.
Some believers may still feel anxious about
gathering in person while the virus is still in our midst. But if we put our
trust in God, we abide under the shadow of His wings and make Him our refuge
and fortress. He will deliver and protect us from the pestilence that walks in
darkness (Ps 91:1–13).
God especially commands us to assemble to
worship on the Sabbath (Lev 23:3). Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah reminds us
that we will receive precious spiritual blessings if we turn from doing our own
will, and delight in the Sabbath (Isa 58:13–14). God’s love, peace, and joy will
abide in our hearts. When we gather, worship, and have fellowship together, we
mutually encourage and exhort one another, strengthening our hope of eternal
rest in the kingdom of heaven.
To be perfect as our heavenly Father is
perfect requires us to be built up and joined together with our fellow members.
God reveals our hidden weaknesses through our interpersonal relationships so
that we can strive to spiritually cultivate ourselves, to emulate the divine
nature of Christ in righteousness, humility, mercy, and love.
We are the household of God, with our faith
built on our chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. In Him, we are fitted together to
grow into a holy temple in the Lord,
built for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:19–22).
My spiritual journey continues daily, as
God gives me opportunities to build stronger connections with those whom I seem
incompatible. Through the transforming power of God’s Spirit and word, and
fellowship with the brethren, I can overcome my prior indifference and put on
love so that I can be built up with my fellow brethren. May we all continue to
strive for perfection through God’s love.
as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness,
humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one
another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you,
so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond
of perfection. (Col 3:12–14)