Fighting for Fellowship
Take a moment to consider the importance of what the Apostle Paul revealed in the final chapters of Romans (from our recent “5-on-5” readings) about a Christian's relationship with other Christians, especially in the local church:
...so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (12:5)
Let love be genuine... Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor... Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality... Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly... (12:9, 10, 13, 15-16)
Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (14:18–19)
The love and calls to action we hear about in that second set of verses spring from the reality described in that first verse: that we are “one body in Christ” (12:5). That doesn't simply emphasize our connection with Jesus, but also with other followers of Jesus, since we are also “individually members one of another”. Thus, anyone who “serves Christ” should walk by two 'metrics': pleasing God and pleasing others. Though we know we cannot and will not always please everyone, we can always “pursue what makes for peace” with others, and focus on “mutual upbuilding” in those already healthy relationships.
Sometimes, this fellowship seems to happen naturally. With some people, we just 'click'. But the church is not fundamentally a collection of people with whom we have 'chemistry'. It is a faith family. That means, because of our shared faith in Jesus, we walk in faith with one another (in light of passages like the ones above), and continue learning to walk in faith with one another, whether we 'click' or not. Does that mean the relationships are forced? No, not at all. It simply means the relationships are founded on something bigger and deeper than our feelings; than our likes or dislikes, or our station in or season of life.
In light of this, every disciple of Christ knows there are times you have to fight for this kind of fellowship. Social influences, insecurities, selfishness, and many other factors can keep us from the faith-shaped relationships we read about in Scripture. Currently, it is the unexpected reality of a global pandemic that has not only distanced us socially, but also tempted many of us to fizzle rather than fight when it comes to fellowship. But why?
Well, for some, current challenges have simply exacerbated a pre-existing, unhealthy view of Christian fellowship. The pandemic has simply given some people a better excuse to keep their distance.
But for many of us, the absence of those regular rhythms of seeing brothers and sisters, in the flesh, week in and week out, is the culprit in terms of discouragement. Another apostle, John, would sympathize with that struggle. But consider his example in the midst of a similar absence:
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. (2 John 12)
It's clear that John desperately wants to see his brothers and sisters “face to face”. But their 'social distance' doesn't keep him from communicating that very sentiment via “paper and ink”. John used what was available to him in the First Century to fight for fellowship? Are we? Are you?
Brothers and sisters, navigating these strange times is not simply about your personal faith in Christ bringing you through. It is about Christ bringing you through. And Jesus Christ has a “body” in this world, even now: his church. Will you fight, as that “body”, to experience the power of Christ through that “body”, as you “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding”?
Please take a few minutes, even now, to bring your struggles and your stumbling blocks to God, the very things that can 'sideline' you in the midst of this battle. Ask God to help you fight for fellowship, just as Jesus fought on the cross, so that we could have fellowship with the Father, forever.
I'm praying and fighting with you!