One of the things most of us hope for when we are part of a church body is the sense of community, of belonging, or of being in fellowship one with another.
When I am speaking of fellowship, I am not really speaking of getting together over food and fun even though that may often happen. I am speaking more about a community bound together in mutual support, companionship, and friendship stemming from shared values and beliefs.
Because life on this earth is messy, experiencing this type of fellowship can often include some ruts or rocks along the way since we all continue to bear the taint of our sin natures even though redeemed. I think we all can struggle with that from time to time, or one degree to another.
What makes this fellowship and community so difficult?
I am sure we can all come up with lists or have some opinions about it, but as I have been reading in my time with the Lord today I think He points us back to the “big rock” principle He lays down for us.
How do I love my brother or sister, my neighbor?
At the outset, I think none of us do this as well as we would like or might even pride ourselves on doing. I certainly don’t! Yet, over and over again from Old Testament to New Testament each of us is called to do so.
One place I bumped into it today was in Leviticus 19:17:
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor lest you incur sin because of him.”
I can quickly say that I don’t hate someone, but as I delve more deeply into the principles under the verse I discover it includes a responsibility to God to respect my brother or sister. That adds a dimension I may not first think about when reading a verse such as this.
Respecting someone means having a feeling of deep admiration for someone, holding that person in regard or esteem, acting with deference toward or in civility with the person. This sounds a lot like godly love to me.
That fits with the two commandments upon which everything else depends of first loving God and then loving our neighbor. We all “know” that. Loving God first is what bends our hearts toward loving our neighbor. Only when we do the first can we hope to attempt the second since it is a reflex to the reality of loving God.
I feel like it can be easy to get stuck because even when we seek to put self to death, it keeps sticking its head up out of the ground over and over again. That keeps me from loving my brother or sister very well, but what I might fail to recognize is that I might not love God or be in rich fellowship with Him. If that has slipped, then I will mess up in loving anyone else because it will invariably be about me in some way or another.
I think these are some of the sticking points that are a hard part of fellowship, but there is something else. When things get messy for whatever reason and our hearts cause our actions and motives to be less than loving, too often someone does not come alongside us in respect and love to help us recognize what is hindering fellowship with God or others.
That requires a lot more from us. It is easier to be judgmental, to cut off the person, to confront without love, or to become bitter. Because that is the case and this community of believers may have more than just one or two of us in the midst of this sort of challenge, fellowship is hard.
We will hurt each other. That’s a given even though it is generally not intentional. Prayerfully, we will seek to forgive in the midst of our own hurt or pain.
We demonstrate how well we love when we bump into Ephesians 4:15:
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”
Most of us know that verse, but living it out is another story. Think about it. It means I speak the truth versus my opinion or perspective. I share my honest feeling as a feeling, but not as a fact. It also means I share whatever I am sharing in love while not diminishing the issue.
It is also how I help myself and others grow up in Him and in maturity by being open to them when they (out of love) seek to help me not fail or do poorly. It also means I face my fear and gain courage to speak to them in that way, not from a one up position but from an equally level position.
We need more lessons and practice in loving no matter what our age or season of life, no matter what our position or gender.
If we submit to Him and allow His love to permeate our own hearts, I think fellowship will become less difficult and the community will look more like Him.
I love what C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity:
“God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body. Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God, is the whole Christian community, waiting on Him together.”
17 thoughts on “A Hard Part of Fellowship”
Your post goes along with our sermon from church this morning from Ephesians 4:1-16. The pastor gave us two key points for preserving Christian unity in the church. 1. Dependence on Christ 2. Interdependence on each other. Thanks for sharing at the #LMMLinkup.
Wow! What a neat confirmation! Thanks so much for sharing this! Blessings on your day!
Such an important topic because Jesus said other people will know Him by the love we show for each other. Thanks, Pam.
Thanks, Rachel! I appreciate your comments.
“If we submit to Him and allow His love to permeate our own hearts, I think fellowship will become less difficult and the community will look more like Him.” This is so true. If we are putting Him first instead of serving our own interests, it will be much easier to show love and understanding to others and to have the hard conversations with a heart of love. Thanks for sharing at #LMMLinkup!
Thanks so much, Gayl. It’s true, but the doing of it seems often to get sidetracked so we need to daily practice what that looks like to love as He would. Blessings on your weekend.
This is an important topic for Christian women to discuss. When we learn to love each other and experience true friendship, we are so counter-culture. Women supporting each other as sisters and laying down competing and comparing is a beautiful thing — and it draws others to Him!
I very much agree. What you describe are hard habits to break and ones that point to gaps in a deep experience of God’s love that releases us from them because He has already so much delighted in us!
this is such an important dialog that needs to be continued! I must admit I don’t go to church anymore because I stand in a world between believers and unbelievers, and I heard so many believers in the church harshly judge non-believers..and I found it so hard to be in fellowship with this kind of witnessing..I know it may be a cop-out that I left..but maybe I’m taking a break to figure out what God is saying to me in all this..but fellowship..it’s a tough one for me in the church context. Still evolving on it so appreciate this post! Visiting from next door at #testimonytuesday.. a blessing!
I hear you and have a sense of understanding of what you have shared. After several significant periods of time involved in several different ministries over the years, I have felt disillusioned and disappointed, hurt and frustrated on more than one occasion. I have felt often that Pharisees are once again in governance of the church and I have wanted no part of it, but we have looked for when and where to step aside and then discover some places where what I know of Him is more clearly on display. I pray He leads you and grants you grace and assurance in the midst of all you have known and experienced. Thanks so much for sharing here. You will likely see a few more things related to this as I write here. Blessings on your day!
Enjoyed reading this post – a lot. Can’t help but feel that the whole thing is summed up in the phrase “do as you would be done by”. If we all this a bit more of that, think we’d all do a lot better – and be a lot happier!
I think that fits well! Thanks!
When I read the Fortune’s book on spiritual gifts – and understood “personality” differences better, I became less intimidated and more understanding of differences – in how people speak (or don’t), how they act (and don’t) – and it has enabled me to love better at home and in community. When we actually seek to love better and less selfishly (not “why can’t people be more like me” – or “Well! They should know better”) – and invite Christ into the effort – it does change how God’s family interacts.
Those things really do help us, but sometimes feeling triggers from other places and times can still jump into the mix and we cannot immediately access those tools we learn. That is when the Holy Spirit really needs to help us do what we cannot do without Him. Thanks for your good words here.
Maintaining a healthy community of believers is no easy task, I agree! But yes, it’s so worth it. “If we submit to Him and allow His love to permeate our own hearts, I think fellowship will become less difficult and the community will look more like Him.” Great words, Pam.
It really isn’t. We read, listen, hear more messages and workshops, know about differences in people and their personalities, but those usually stay stuck in our cognitive mode and don’t tend to immediately transfer to the feeling level in the moment. Serving on a church staff for 13 years made that even clearer to me. Thanks as always for your encouragement, Lisa!