WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP?
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 1:5, Acts 2:46-47, Hebrews 10:24-25
CONFESSION: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
WHAT IS FELLOWSHIP?
The Greek word for friendship reflects the notion of sharing with someone else and having something in common. Popular participation takes two forms: giving and receiving. Both facets are seriously involved in Christian fellowship.
In truth, Christian fellowship is both vertical and horizontal. The horizontal plane is the same as the vertical, because of its very existence.
The vertical dimension was defined by John thus: “… our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ ” (1 John 1:3). The fellowship is what makes a Christian a Christian. John’s words also have a description of what it is to be a Christian. According to Him, those who are not in fellowship with the Father and the Son, however upright they may be, are not Christians.
The horizontal aspect of fellowship is the continuous sharing, constant giving, and receiving of one another, which is the real, genuine life pattern for God’s people. Fellowship with God is the root from which any gathering among Christians springs; and again, the end to which Christian fellowship leads is fellowship with God.
Christian fellowship, then, is not a privilege or devotional choice, but a requirement of spirituality. God wants us to have fellowship with Him and with one another. Fellowship with God strengthens Christian fellowship in development and refinement, and it needs to be continuously fed. Christian friendship cements our relationship with Christ.
Our fellowship with God encompasses all that we send to Him, all that we take from Him, and reflect our faith and love. As our Father, God offers Himself to us by the gift of His Son, founded on salvation for humanity. We earn God’s companionship and all the benefits that it entails as we fellowship with Him.
“He who receives you receives me,” said Jesus, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” (Matt. 10:40). And John adds: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12).
Our subsequent fellowship with Christ and others rests on our adoption into the family of God. Day by day, as God’s children, we thankfully take the gifts that our heavenly Father presents. Daily He forgives our sins and reveals Himself to us through His written Word and nature. Christian fellowship entails the sharing with God, which constitutes a deeper fellowship.
Our human-level fellowship seeks to share with others what God has made known of Himself to find energy, refreshment, and guidance for spiritual development. Through fellowship, one strives both to receive and to give. The apostle shows this in saying to the Romans, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Rom. 1:11, 12). Paul’s definition of fellowship is clear: it is a two-way process in which both he and the believers will find mutual support within the bond of Christian fellowship.
First, fellowship comes out of the grace of God. The soul is renewed, nurtured, and affirmed by fellowship. Second, fellowship is a measure of spiritual practice. This means opening our hearts to people of like minds. Just if we are open and frank in our relations with God and others, that means we are free from pretension and concealment. Where pretense or mask exists, friendship cannot exist. Our reservations will not go undetected if we discourage or impede God’s light from shining entirely upon ourselves. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Third, the fellowship for spiritual life is God’s chosen plan. There is God’s spirit that we will embrace our lives, and we will be prepared to support others. That is where we develop in grace. We will prayerfully rely on the Holy Spirit if we fellowship together; otherwise, our Christianity will be partial and even empty, and we will gain nothing.
Fellowship may be true or false, full, or incomplete. The dangers of imitating Christian devotion are warned by Paul (Romans 12:9). False or minimal fellowship exists only when we have abnormal human affinities, affections, and associations. This is a shallow affiliation that can be very different from a certain social group. We need to admit that this weak or incomplete fellowship is all too common in contemporary Christian churches.
However, the true Christian faith is alive and ever stronger. This is impacting the deeper parts of our personality gradually and requiring constant self-sacrifice. It is always modest.
Through false fellowship, leaders are frightened of each other, making them separated from others and suspicious. The real communion is without fear or flattery, and it is filled with love and grace.
There are two threats to true fellowship: the human ego and the power of Satan. James asks: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Do not they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1).
Our greatest battle is overcoming self with its desires and temptations.
We are like people who live in a world that has no mirrors. We can see other people’s faults but not our own. We don’t realize that the self we see in other people exists in us also. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you condemn yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Rom. 2:1).
The most common and hardest to recognize of all the sins that destroy fellowship is jealousy. It separates husband and wife, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, pastor and parish, and Christian partners and leaders at all levels of God’s work.
Self, the enemy within us, is but a tool of Satan. He is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), who accuses us day and night before God and accuses us through one another. An example of how he accused Job, using Job’s “friends,” should raise our awareness that when we have misunderstandings between us, it is the devil who is at the root of all this.
Do you have a deep longing for genuine relationships and fellowship with other believers? Do you feel that it is tough to build those relationships?
It is by chance that the Bible speaks of the Body of Believers. You can only have a healthy physical body if all your body parts are working together in harmony. When one part of your body is outside of this created harmony, the whole body suffers. In the same way can the Body of Christ, His Church, not function in the way God has ordained it if members of this body do not live together in harmony.
If relationships in the church are broken and not restored, the church cannot be a shining light to the whole world. You can have thousands of programs, but if the members don’t live in healthy and loving relationships, these programs will just be only an activity that does have the support of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches very clearly that the people outside of the church will only understand God’s love if they see the love that the church members have for one another.
What keeps us from experiencing true Christian fellowship within the church? We have built walls around us that prevent us from having a true fellowship with one another. I call them Relationship Bugs. Here are the four main ones:
Many Christian groups suffer from uncommitted members. Commitment does not mean to serve the other just once in a while – it means that one is permanently attached to another person once you have entered into a relationship.
But many Christians don’t want that. They want to be independent and free from commitment. But, we like the good feelings within a fellowship, and we criticize if the fellowship does not keep up to our expectations. But we ourselves don’t want to make a commitment to the fellowship.
We have high expectations from people, thinking they have to do this and do that. Assuming they have to be loving and helpful to you. They have to make the first step. They have to change. They have to come to you!
Also, some members believe that they should not be told what to do! Or what should be approved for their lives! But are prepared to make others listen to what they think about them! Don’t come close to me. Our desire to be independent makes us fearful of others, seeing our shortcomings. We want to keep our front. We want to be good ones.
Independence has only one root: pride! But a healthy Christian Fellowship should not involve pride.
2. Fear of Rejection
If you, in the past, were disappointed by others you trusted, and you are presently afraid to open up again and engage in deep relationships, you need to fight this fear.
Many people experience an atmosphere of openness and trust for the first time when they come into a Christian setting. But they carry with them a big load of hurts from disappointments. But if you want to live in healthy and genuine relationships, you have to overcome this fear of rejection. You have to take a new risk. The fear of being rejected makes people defensive in their actions. This fear is like a magnet. It attracts further misunderstandings and disappointments.
3. Lack of forgiveness
Unresolved conflicts will kill every fellowship and destroy all relationships. Gossip, the most terrible sin that we find within the church makes it impossible to have a true fellowship.
If gossip or other sins have destroyed your Christian relationships with others, then there is only one cure: Forgiveness!
If you say that you forgive your fellow Christian, and that forgiveness does not open the door to start the process of new fellowship and relationships, then that forgiveness is false.
Always remember one thing: If something goes wrong between you and other believers, forgive right away. Don’t put your relationships in danger.
4. Living behind masks
The danger of wearing masks is that you get used to them. After a little while, you believe what you are portraying. People wear masks because we don’t want to be known.
Christians who wear masks think that Christianity is a call to perfection. But because they realize that they are far from perfect, they do everything in their power to appear perfect. They put on a mask. And all of a sudden, they think of themselves as holy. They think they are so wise and that they know right from wrong.
But you take that mask away from them, and you find the most insecure people.
It doesn’t matter how weak or how strong you are. God did not make you part of his body to compare yourself with others or others with yourself. We are one body to grow together, inspire, and encourage one another.
You will never experience Christian fellowship and relationships’ beauty if you don’t get rid of your masks.
The main components of genuine Christen fellowships are love, acceptance, and forgiveness – not in words alone, but deeds. Find a group of Christian friends. Be real, honest, and transparent with them. Don’t wear a mask. Kill the relationship bugs in your own life by having a heart change from your sense of self-sufficiency, loving others unconditionally, and being quick to forgive others.
Don’t forget: the foundation for good Christian fellowship is not your strength and your abilities but your weaknesses and your common dependence on God.
Reconciliation is essential, and it is needed when there is a breakdown in personal relationships. Reconciliation, as Jesus said, should precede our worship before God: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt. 5:23, 24). Paul counseled the Christians at Ephesus that they should not let the sun go down on their wrath (Eph. 4:26). Also, the sun shouldn’t go down on our envy, or something else that affects our relationships and fellowship with fellow Christians.
In a world torn apart by so many differences, we need nothing but fellowship and reconciliation — the kind created by God, “who by Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).