I never entered life expecting such a roller coaster ride. I wish someone had told me. And yet, at the same time, I am quite glad no one did. The lessons I have learnt have been more effective because I didn’t know they were lessons. I’m still learning, and always will be. But one lesson that will stick is that of fellowship. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to walk this Christian life on our own, for two main reasons:

  1. We are away from the Lord “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6)
  2. We were created for fellowship – “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.'” (Genesis 2:18); “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
What an amazing God that builds unity and fellowship within the concept of love! And yet, it all makes sense if we think about it. If God is love, then practicing love is the most fulfilling thing we will encounter on this earth – perhaps even the very purpose we were made:

There is no more convincing proof that the injunction, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” is the most important norm of living and that its violation is the basic cause of unhappiness and mental illness than the evidence gathered by the psychoanalyst. Whatever complaint the patient may have, whatever symptoms he may present, are rooted in his inability to love, if we mean by love a capacity for the experience of concern, responsibility, respect and understanding of another person and an intense desire for that other person’s growth.
(Erich Fromm in ‘None of these diseases’ by S.I.McMillen)

If this kind of love is so fulfilling, then why is it so difficult? Perhaps it is because to love means to make oneself vulnerable. Even infants show signs of distress when there is a lack of love shown in the way they are cared for, regardless of materialistic provision – we are designed to give and receive love.
Hans Peter Royer once  described the Christian life as being a fine balance between receiving from God, and giving to those around us, very much like breathing in and out – we cannot value one above the other or practice one more often than the other, otherwise we would die. The love we receive from others very often reflects the love that comes from God. If a person does not experience love from those around him or her, then that person will suffer, and it will effect the way love is shown towards others. And yet, we are told to love others regardless of the situations we may find ourselves in (Matthew 5:43-48). So how is this even possible? Firstly, our God is a God of the impossible; not only is He strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but He makes all things possible when we place our faith in Him (Philippians 4:13). Secondly, He has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:12), having “been created in Christ Jesus”, who is God and therefore love Himself!
There is an element to fellowship that is beautiful, and that appears to justify the fact that loving those around us, both Christian and non-Christian, is such a challenge at times. If we understand that God can turn any situation around for His glory (and therefore for our own good, because God can only reveal His glory by being loving and good in His perfect way), then it is easier to see that when we struggle to like or love those around us as we feel called to do, we can gain so much through each difficult situation, no matter how hard it may seem at the time.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). As we are ‘sharpened’ by those around us, we can trust that although we may get hurt, we can allow those experiences to shape and form us into something more beautiful, much like God, who refines us and changes us in ways that ‘make a wretch His treasure’ as Stuart Townend sings in his song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.

In my own experience, it is only when I have allowed others to be my family, protective, caring and providing, both spiritually and materialistically, that I have experienced freedom from my fears and doubts. And if we have an attitude of searching for something beautiful in each relationship we have with every person, then we can learn to value the times when we feel misunderstood or cannot understand the behaviour and attitudes of others as a time of learning to appreciate our differences.
God made each individual so unique that it is inevitable that there will be times when we feel misunderstood, misled, or lost. Learning to understand other’s behaviours is accepting that God made us each differently. We cannot allow for this to excuse certain behaviours that are caused by our sinful nature, but the fact that we are each so unique means that we can offer others what they may not have, and receive from others the effects of the gifts that God has given them. We can see a bit of God in each of us, because He made us in His image (Genesis 1:26).

Someone described this in such a beautiful way the other day: we are like different voices in a choir. On our own, we may seem disjointed and not very melodious. But as we come together in fellowship, we can create the most beautiful song in harmony and unity.

“‘The most important [commandment],’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.'” (Mark 12:30). It is clear that in everything we do, we should do it to honour and please God (Colossians 3:23). If any kind of fellowship goes against God’s Word, then we are much better without it, just as we are better without a limb that causes us to sin (Matthew 5:30). And yet, at the same time, fellowship can provide us with examples of how others have embraced a relationship with God, opening up their hearts and minds, regardless of the situation they are in.

I know some very special people, who have led me to understand the value of not understanding, but trusting and having faith. They are strong men and women in Christ, who shine their lights so brightly that I could not help but take from their light to let my own cast flames into the cold darkness. And though I have been hurt, hurt others and have let the enemy slip into various situations, God has remained greater, providing the warmth and the depth of trust and care in each relationship.
It is not impossible, and it is never too late. “Two are better than one, because they have good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Of course, there is a difference between fellowship and loving those around us unconditionally. We can love without experiencing fellowship, and there can be fellowship without love. But when the two come together, something very special happens. We are not just performing duties that serve to express our love for others based on our love for God; rather it expands on this; we can enjoy each others presence in fellowship because it is in those situations that we experience a love that can only come from God because love is given as well as received based on each individual’s love for God. How wonderful to think that God’s flow of grace and mercy does not stop. We can catch it and pass it on to one another without ever having to let go!


One response to “Fellowship

  1. Pingback: The Power of Words | Hearing, seeing, believing·

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