During this pandemic, we all face unprecedented challenges. Some feel insecure. Some are always on guard. We isolate ourselves. The side effect is that over time we become distanced from each other, and we gradually feel like strangers. The warmth amongst us has gradually cooled. I yearn for the warm and joyful church life before the pandemic!
The question is – are we able to find back everything we lost? While we can’t go back to the past because it is the new normal, by recalling the teachings of the Bible, the joy that God has given us in Christ cannot be taken away! To do that we have to go back to the meaning of fellowship.
Life of Believers as Members For Each Other
Man is created in the image of God. We are individuals. But we are also social creatures. Just like when Adam was created, God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
Christians in harmonious fellowship is an expression of joy; it is also a kind of exercise in spiritual life. When we have fellowship with people, we cannot avoid interaction with God; when we interact with God, we also cannot avoid fellowship with people. In other words, my relationship with others is based on my relationship with God. That is why we belong to the covenant community and are inseparable from the church of God. True fellowship is a real relationship in Christ established by God, marked by gratitude and mutual ministry to one another.
Life of Fellowship in Christ
There are three aspects in fellowship: the relationship between believers and the community (i.e. fellowship), the relationship between believers and Christ, and the relationship between the community and Christ. The relationship through the salvation of Jesus Christ establishes a relationship between God and man, and God and the community. That is why believers in a group no longer call themselves individuals; rather it is a fellowship. (1 John 1:1-3)
That is what a church is. It is the life connection in Christ, who is the head of the church. This kind of affiliation refers to all groups of believers gathered in the name of Jesus – couples, families, and church; they can all be called fellowships. All believers in the fellowships belong to each other only through and in Jesus Christ.
This relationship has three aspects: First, human nature is group-based, people 3 cannot live alone. We need to live among other people. When we feel discouraged and indecisive, we need the support and comfort of other believers. We need to be in fellowship to share God’s grace with other believers, to build up and encourage each other. The Bible also teaches us to love one other, to testify for the Lord and glorify God and edify others.
Second, everyone wants to be able to live in harmony with others. However, it is difficult to achieve harmony by our own strength. Only through Jesus Christ can believers establish reconciliation and harmony. Without Christ, it is impossible for man to reconcile with God, nor to be in harmony with others. On the other hand, in Christ, believers can be united as one, live peacefully, love and serve each other. “Brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1) also means “brethren live together through Christ” because “He (Christ) is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
Third, the fellowship of believers is different from the friendship of other communities in the world. It is not just a gathering of people living in this world. The fellowship between believers is not just a gathering of people, but with the presence of God. Believers were chosen in Jesus Christ before God created the world, so the fellowship of believers is also through Jesus Christ, it is a fellowship in Him.
Maintaining Good Fellowship in the Lord
As the lockdown of the pandemic gradually eases, we must strengthen and promote a good fellowship in the Lord. As the church slowly opens up for worship, we must also open up for fellowship. The number of believers allowed in the church has increased to 100 people. With that, we have more interaction, more opportunities to communicate, and kick start the fellowship of believers. The friendships in the past that may have been affected by the pandemic can be rebuilt and enhanced by returning to the church more frequently.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
Therefore, we must cherish the fellowship that we have in the Lord even more! The meaning of fellowship life in the Lord is “to share in the Lord,” “to help each other,” “to care for each other.” The New Testament’s teaching about “each other” is the guidance and encouragement about the fellowship life of the church.
The author of Hebrews exhorts: “let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Therefore, we must do our best to preserve this fellowship in the Lord, seize the opportunity to meet often, watch out for each other, and be vigilant together.
And beware of the following pitfalls to Christian fellowship. First, selfishness and pride. The Bible says: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; … Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Human pride and selfishness are often the bane of undermining partnerships.
Second, complaints and disputes. Paul said: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). If the church fellowship life is full of complaints and disputes, you will lose the ability and testimony to love and unite with each other in Christ. Therefore, we must stop meaningless arguments with other Christians and stop complaining about people and things in the church, so that the world can see the glory of Christ in us, and the name of God will be glorified!
Third, lies and dishonesty. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25). Lying or deceptive behaviour will destroy the trust between believers, cause disputes in the church, and destroy their unity. Sincere and honest communication between believers will not only remove the barriers between believers, but also strengthen believers’ relationship with one another. Paul says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15- 16).
So, as we gradually return to physical church worship and fellowship more often, let us also remind ourselves of the worship life that we desire, rebuild the sweet fellowship in the Lord. Let us also renew the fellowship life of the church together and recommit ourselves to love one another. So that as Paul says, “whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
Indeed, how good and how pleasant is the communion of saints!