How would I live without the ‘communion of the saints’ as we say in our creed? The network of friends and associates with whom I do life and ministry is as essential to my well-being as the air I breathe! I love all those people who work together under the headship of Jesus Christ and the umbrella of Faith Discovery Church to teach, love, serve, feed, encourage, and just ‘be friends in the family of God.’ Sunday evening, while watching some very dedicated, loving adults lead children to learn Scripture in a fun environment, my heart sang the Psalm, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! …For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133, NIV)
The New Testament calls it ‘fellowship.’ I heard an old preacher define it with a smile as ‘two fellows in a ship.’ As much as I might go on about the wonder and beauty of shared Christian life, I have to recognize the ugly realities that have always been with the church and continue to be. Unity does not just happen, nor does it flourish without care. Paul had to deal with divisive leaders who brought false doctrine, personal attacks, and selfish motives into the little fellowships he started across the Empire. In the formative centuries of Christianity, there were bitter fights about the doctrines of Christ’s divinity, the Trinity, baptism, and such matters. And so it has gone to this very day.
At the present we are being torn apart by political arguments, tempted to hurl ugly rhetoric at the ‘other’ side. I cannot tell you how many blogs and emails I have read in the last two weeks that insist that anyone who supports (fill in the person or position) could not possibly be a Christian! Really? Really?
Paul wrote to the fractured church in Corinth to pointedly redirect them back to the One who was their Hope: “Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, NLT) Oh that we would ponder that challenge in our time of frayed fellowship!
John, late in the first century, taught us what (better, Who) brings real fellowship. We are not an affinity group of shared interest, a homogeneous group of similar culture or race, or a functional group held together by mission. We are family, people called into faith and united by our shared relationship with the Father, through Jesus Christ, our Savor. We are united in Christ! “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3, NLT)
Read this word from the Word and let it call you to gentleness, to understanding, to patience, and- above all – to love. “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, NLT)
Lord, call us in a holy fellowship.
Heal the fractured Body.
Reweave the frayed cords that bind.
Lift our eyes higher to Christ and His cross.
As we hear His call into the Family,
Teach us how to meld conviction and activism
With divine Love and gentle persuasion.
In Jesus’ name. Amen