Excused Absences

John Isaac Edwards

In the first century, Christians assembled together regularly (Acts 4:31; 11:26; 14:27; 20:7-8; 1 Cor. 5:4; 11:17-18; 14:23, 26). The Hebrew writer commanded, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. . .” (Heb. 10:25). A lot of church members today offer all kinds of excuses for being absent when the saints are assembled. So we take a look at excused absences.
1. Where Is The Scripture? Whatever excuse is made for one’s absence, where is the Scripture that justifies the absence? A good exercise for each of us is to make a list of reasons, along with the Scriptures, that grant exemption to or release from the command to assemble. We’re not talking about what some churches may tolerate, but what the Scriptures allow.
2. Ways Some Members Excuse Absences. There are about as many excuses for absences as there are people absent. Here are a few I’ve heard recently. I was sick. Would this sickness keep you from work, from school, or from play? It’s strange that some are too sick to assemble with the saints, but not too sick to do other things they really want or need to do. Is it possible to be affected with disease or ill health to the point of being unable to assemble with the saints? Sure it is. But that doesn’t excuse one’s missing for every ache and pain.

I’m shut-in. Some seem to have misconceptions of who a shut-in is. A shut-in is “a person who is confined to home, a room, or bed because of illness or incapacity” (Merriam- Webster’s Online Dictionary). Those on the “shut-in” list who attend sporting events, eat out at restaurants, or shop at the mall or grocery store really are not shut-in. It’s odd that some can sit through a basketball game, but are unable to sit through the services of the Lord’s church! Some have used “I’m shut-in” as an excuse for shutting out assembling with the saints.
I had to work. Are there some exceptional situations that may arise beyond one’s control? Absolutely. A doctor, for example, may be called away for emergency surgery. There’s a difference, is there not, in that and the doctor who schedules office visits during the assembling times. Paul was a tentmaker by occupation (Acts 18:3), yet “assembled with the church” (Acts 11:25-26; 20:7). Can you imagine him missing services for tent-making? There may be some jobs I just don’t need to take so as to be present when the church is assembled. What’s more important?
I had a ball game. Why is it that some will not miss a ball game, but will miss the services of the church? Is throwing, catching, and hitting a ball more beneficial and of greater importance than singing, praying, and studying? Jesus said, “. . .whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). One who is not willing to give up a ball game may just not be able to be the Lord’s disciple.
The preacher is gone. Remarkable that some will use the preacher’s being away in gospel meeting work or vacation time (where he assembled with the saints while away) as an excuse for their not assembling with the saints faithfully! The preacher’s been gone, so I think I’ll just stay home tonight—how absurd! A preacher’s absence does not excuse unfaithfulness (Phil. 1:27).
I was away on vacation. Where is the Scripture that teaches we have intermission from our responsibilities to the Lord? Some will choose a vacation destination where there is no church, or go to a place where there is a faithful church, but just not attend. There are others who plan their vacations so as to be with faithful churches of Christ at every service while they are away. Why the difference? I asked one couple where they attended while away on vacation, they responded, “We didn’t. We just kind of lost track of time.”
I had a family gathering. There is a family gathering every time the church is assembled – the church is God’s family (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 2:19). Why not bring your family with you (John 1:40-42)? If they don’t want to go with you, leave them behind and, by your example, teach them a good lesson about “seeking first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). I’ve not totally abandoned. Some have the idea that to be guilty of “forsaking the assembling” (Heb. 10:25), they would have to entirely give up or totally abandon the services of the church. Can one just attend once a week, once a month, once a year, drop in every five years and say, “Don’t worry. I’ll be back. I haven’t abandoned ?

3. Would It Have Been Accepted in the First Century? Paul and Barnabas “assembled themselves with the church” in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Would the excuse you offer for not attending have been made or accepted by them? If it’s not good enough for them, why is it for you?

4. When You’re Absent. There’s more to being absent than meets the eye with most brethren. When one deliberately and willfully is absent from assembling with the saints, he has violated a spiritual “thou shalt not” (Heb. 10:25), sinned “willfully” (Heb. 10:26), failed to consider his brethren to provoke to love and to good works (Heb. 10:24), neglected to exhort one another (Heb. 10:25), not taught and admonished one another in song (Col. 3:16), not fulfilled the command to remember the Lord’s death and lay by in store, when absent on the Lord’s day (1 Cor. 11:23-29; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2), missed an opportunity to encourage visitors, witness baptisms and erring brethren restored, set a good example, and the list goes on. It all boils down to one question: where is your treasure? Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21) –

Truth Magazine Jan. 2012