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:
- 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)
- 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)
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)
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!