by Gabe Bernal
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41, ESV)
Have you ever heard of the term “holy elbows?”
If you haven’t, I’m sure that you know the concept. You’re sitting in church, and the preacher says something that you want to make sure your friend, spouse, family member, neighbor (or whoever is sitting next to you) needs to hear, so you gently poke your elbow into their side to make sure they are paying attention.
As they look to you, you’re hoping to telepathically communicate with your eyes, “Listen up, George! You need to hear this!”
Of course, it’s done with good intentions. You know how your friend has been struggling and, this particular part of the message will encourage them. Or you know that your spouse has been doing this annoying thing, and the church leader is preaching on that particular subject.
But now that I have spent the last year watching church services and sermons online at home by myself, I find myself not having someone to give a “holy elbow”.
This solitude has reminded me of something that I easily understood when I was a young Christian–when I was newer to the faith and devouring every sermon, learning and growing each week.
Every message I hear is for my ears.
Every message is for me to reflect on.
Not for my friend, not for my family, for me.
The Spirit speaks to each of us in unique ways. Instead of trying to be the Holy Spirit to the person sitting next to me in church, I should stop and discern what the Spirit is trying to say to me. How does the Spirit want to lead me?
The Spirit reminds me I too often forget the log in my own eye. And while it’s good to have a desire to challenge and lead my friends and family to grow in Christ, it shouldn’t be at the expense of ignoring how the Spirit may be leading me. That would be like navigating a group through a wilderness while neglecting the map.
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word” (Acts 10:44, ESV)
- As you reflect on the last sermon you heard, how might the Spirit be leading you to respond to that message?
- Reflecting back on that sermon, what is one specific thing you will do in response to the message you heard?
- What can you do to make sure to listen to the next sermon for yourself first and not for others?