In our yard we have many squirrels. I have observed on more than one occasion that there is rarely just one squirrel on the lawn looking for acorns or trying to outwit my bird feeder. Instead, there are four or five of them out there. I have also observed predators in our yard; there are foxes, cats, coyotes and hawks, to name a few. If a predator is observed, one of the squirrels will sound the alarm, which they can do with a motion of their tails, or with a wide range of sounds, causing the other squirrels to take notice and retreat for cover if necessary. The squirrels in my backyard are always watching for each other.
In the Bible, God tells us to do much the same thing. In fact, you could say this is one of the reasons Christians should be a part of a local church, so they can watch, and be watched. In the New Testament you come across two different types of watching that are commanded, and both of them are hard to do alone.
First, in his discourse on his second coming, Jesus tells his disciples to keep watch, because they do not know when he will return (Mark 13:35-37). It is much easier to keep watch if someone is there watching with you. This is particularly true if you are watching late at night, when things are dark, and you are tired. Once in a while I like to take Jesus’ command here literally by looking up into the sky and seeing if he is coming down right now. I like to remind myself that he really is coming back and that I better be ready. But it can be easy to forget to watch if we are by ourselves, and particularly if things are dark and life is difficult. Rather than watching and longing for Jesus’ return, we tend to turn our gaze to earth and think only of this life. We need our brothers and sisters around us to help us watch.
The second type of watching that is commanded in the Bible is watching doctrine and behavior. That is, believers are told to watch themselves and each other as far as what teaching they are following and how they are living. In I Corinthians 16:13 Paul commands believers to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith…” And again in I Peter 5:8 we are told to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” These commands are not written just for individual Christians, they are written to the Church as a whole. We will be more effective at watching if we are looking over each other’s shoulders for the devil’s approach, rather than just trying to watch behind our own backs.
In short, Christians are to watch out for each other. We are to encourage each other to keep looking heavenward, and we are to warn each other when we see false teaching or false living. We are to alarm each other of the devil’s approach. Maybe for you this means a re-commitment to regular church attendance this year. Maybe it means calling up someone whom you haven’t seen at church lately. Maybe it means you should join a small group or find someone you can be accountable to.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to be able to do this at least as well as the squirrels! Let’s keep watch!