What Do Our Neighbors Do While We Are at Church?

by Sally Matheny

Happiness is temporary. Joy is lasting.
(Pixabay Photo)
If you’ve ever run a few minutes late getting to church, you’ve definitely seen them. Recently, they appeared on my route. Within a quarter of a mile, there they were--three, seemingly happy, families in their front yards.

The first family’s home was surrounded by pink and blue balloons. It had to be a gender reveal party or a baby shower. Someone was setting up a grill as cars pulled in the driveway.

The second home had a nice, fenced yard with beautiful flowers. A middle-aged woman wearing gardening gloves dropped a bag of mulch on the ground. Several other bags leaned against a tree.

A few yards down the street, a truck sat in a driveway, waiting for me to pass. Filled with smiling, teen boys, who appeared eager to get going. A trailer with two four-wheelers was attached to the truck. Behind them was another truck filled with more boys and more ATVs.

All three yards seemed to harbor cheerful people. They all had special plans for the day.

But it was 10:45 on a Sunday morning. Obviously, I’m curious why these happy people don’t go to church.

I know, I know. They could have gone to an early service somewhere. They may have been expecting family from out of town. Heading out for an overdue vacation. Yes, all that may have been true.

But, what if it wasn’t? What if that day was just like every Sunday, except this time, they happened to be outside when I passed by?

They were doing what they wanted, what they enjoyed. It was their day off from work and they were free.

So why do these happy scenes make me feel a twinge of sadness?

I hear one of you laughing now and stating, “Because you’re the preacher’s wife and you have to go to church!”

(hee, hee.) All joking aside, I’m glad I felt a tug on my heart. It’s all too easy to say, “Oh, well, to each his own,” and keep driving by.

In fact, for years, I’ve driven by a house where a man is almost always out in his garden on Sunday morning. I’ve become used to seeing him there.

Sometimes our lives are so busy, it’s easy to glide past and ignore the choices of others. But we’re talking about human lives here.

Do we care enough to make time for a conversation?

It’s not a legalistic thing. It’s not about getting people to do the “right thing” by going to church on Sunday.

Rather, it’s about devoted Christians loving people enough, loving strangers enough, to start a conversation. We should be asking ourselves what our neighbors do while we are at church. Find out if those we’re passing by know the truth about this temporary life and about their eternity.

I wonder if that one family knows all children are gifts from God, that it is He who knits each baby in the womb, and that He even knows how many hairs are on each head.

Does the older woman recognize God as the creator of all things, that it is He who miraculously grows a giant oak out of an acorn, and He is the one who amazingly intertwines all of nature together? Does she know He cares for the flowers, the animals, and even more so, He cares about her?

I wonder if those young guys understand that true joy runs deeper than any ravine and soars higher than any mountain? Are they aware only through a relationship with Jesus Christ will they experience an everlasting joy?

What are these people’s lives like during the rest of the week? Do they sleep with sweet peace or are they tossing and turning with worry? Are their needs being met, or are they constantly in search of something better? Do they know what it feels like to join other believers in worship of the one and only, awesome God?

Right now, I don’t know how those folks would answer these questions. There’s only one question I can answer. “Do I care enough to find out?”

Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to see. Forgive me of my self-centeredness and complacency. Please give me wisdom and discernment on how to reach out to others. Remind me of my limitless joy, the reason for my hope, and give me the desire and the courage to share it.

What’s going on in your neighborhood? Have you seen anyone on your way to church?