Chapter four of Learning to Walk. This one discusses our need for true Christian fellowship. As before, please read, enjoy, and comment if you feel there is anything left unclear or uncovered.
You may have known someone who has always had to learn the hard way. No matter how much counsel they’re offered, or how much encouragement they receive to do the right thing, they just seem to have to fall on their face before they learn that there’s a better or easier way. If you’re one of those people, you may want to read this chapter a couple of times.
The church is here for a purpose, a very important purpose. We encourage and equip one another to live with and for Jesus. We help each other discover our identity in Christ together, our calling from God together, and we live to leave a legacy of faith together. We are the face of Jesus to each other. The Bible says it this way, “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
We aren’t wired to make this journey alone. God created us for interdependence. Kind of the same way your body works. Lungs just wouldn’t fare well on their own…or without the heart. We help one another as we grow in our faith, as we encourage one another, and learn from one another. We call this relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ fellowship.
Through authentic fellowship we can learn about God and faith from each others’ experiences. We don’t have to learn the hard way. We can avoid painful failures, and be emboldened to step up and take our relationship with God deeper. As we share our experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and understandings with one another we broaden each others’ view of God and his work.
It’s important to note that a lack of experiences or a difference of experiences do not separate us from being a part of God’s family. In fact, it makes us more indispensable (read 1 Corinthians 12:14-25). God knows that we need each other. He designed the body that way, and our unified diversity makes us whole.
Fellowship, though it does include just fun, social time, is more than simply “hanging out” together. In fellowship we share life together. We share our thoughts, our victories, and our failures. In fellowship we receive counsel, encouragement, and correction…and we offer it. Christian fellowship is a two-way street where we give and are given the kind of love that edifies and enriches.
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This is fellowship: loving one another with an attitude—not an emotion—of love. By the definition given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” There’s not a feeling on the list. All of these are an intentional attitude we choose. Fellowship is when we choose to love and share our lives with one another.
Sharing life isn’t a church program. Life happens between Sundays. When we talk about loving one another and having fellowship, we mean the common, everyday, ordinary things that make up your average day. Fellowship happens at a BBQ, running errands, sitting around the kitchen table, on the job, at the kids’ soccer game, and even over the phone.
We may have friendships with those who are not Christian. We love them, and this is essential if we are to introduce others to the love and truth of Jesus. Fellowship—that mutual exchange between one spirit and another, which edifies our spirit and our walk with God—can only happen with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are filled by the same Spirit. And fellowship is a beautiful thing.
An important distinction needs to be made: You are encouraged and commanded to be engaged in the lives of those who do not share your faith. Share life with them, enjoy their company; love them and even disciple them! This is how they will come to encounter Jesus, and you will experience God more fully. You should be careful, however, to find your identity, calling, and value in the body of Christ.