SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Our Joy in Fellowship
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 1:00 AM
". . . that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete." (1 John 1:3-4)
Perhaps you already are aware of the fact that the Greek word, used here in these verses, for 'fellowship' (koinonia) is one which, most basically, implies 'sharing'. For instance, genuine fellowship (koinonia) for those in the early church might have included the sharing of a meal. This was a common practice then as it is today and the Book of Acts testifies to this. It should be noted as well that their sharing often came in the form of material goods and possessions. We are given a good treatment of this in Acts 2 where we read: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . and all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (2:42-45) In truth, the fellowship experienced within the early church seemed to have a tremendous scope in that the entirety of their lives seemed to have been included in this practical working out of this word - fellowship. How differently we have come to look upon this essential ingredient of Body Life today!
Louis Jenkins (a poet) composed a poem entitled 'Invisible' in which he suggested that there are moments when a person cannot be seen by the human eye. Of course, he isn't being serious, but only poking fun at the way in which we often neglect others (pay little attention to their presence) or more specifically, the manner in which some people voluntarily hide themselves or cloak themselves (as it were) in an invisibility of choice. He writes that it is as if "we are caught in a warp of space or time and, for a moment, vanish." I couldn't help but think of all those individuals within the church who, by their own choice, make themselves 'invisible' - withdrawing from fellowship. By this course of action, what have they truly done?
Well, they have chosen to absent themselves from their calling (as believers) to remain intimately involved in the lives of others - coming together with the rest of the believing community in fellowship. The effect of this is that their own lives become poorer by this lack of interaction and sharing even as a deprivation (of sorts) is forced upon the believing family because they are no longer actively involved in the mix. The fellowship (koinonia) to which we, as Christians, are exhorted is unto full and abiding participation within the Body - interacting socially one with each other - communicating, distributing, shouldering together the work and mission of the church - living together for the mutual benefaction of all. But today, there are many who choose to withdraw far too soon and almost with the slightest of excuses, becoming non-active members of the church (an oxymoron if there ever was one!). To use Jenkins' thought - they choose to become 'invisible'.
Countering this, John encourages us to have a higher opinion of Christian fellowship by binding together, quite beautifully, the fellowship we enjoy with God and that fellowship we experience one with each other within the church. To each of these expressions of fellowship we are called. If we would consider a severed fellowship with God to be a horrifying thought, then why are we so easily tolerant of the disruption or complete abandonment of fellowship among brothers and sisters of the faith?
How John must have marveled whenever he thought of the 'sharing' he had witnessed in those earlier days when God sent among us His Son! What a mind-boggling thing He did by having Jesus "pitch His tent" among us that we might see the Father in Him. Then also think of the 'sharing' of His Spirit - the Comforter who has now come unto us and indwells us. Is that not also a marvel? In truth, we are told of God that He has, in the Son, shared or given us all things - attributes of His own nature along with gifts of His Spirit. Surely this truth impacted John's own life and helped to shape his exhortation to us here.
This 'sharing' to which John commits us is intended to be a mutual giving of ourselves to each other in Christ. As believers, we become invested in the lives of others while our own lives are enriched by them. We 'share' mutual love, mutual forgiveness, a mutual shouldering of the shared work. We show a genuine interest in the affairs and concerns and needs of that other person because we realize that we are less than what we could be and should be whenever we are separated from them. Simultaneously, the individual who takes upon himself the cloak of invisibility - perhaps only revealing himself to the Body on the rarest of occasions (Christmas and Easter) - has voluntarily stunted himself.
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone, but in community, within the supportive company of others. There are aspects of who we are and who we were meant to become (as believers) which cannot be experienced in isolation. There is a joy that cannot and will not be known by the individual who fails to see his or her need for the company of others. Don't make the mistake in judging Christian fellowship to be optional. Don't become selectively visible within the fellowship of your church. Rather, give of yourself, withholding nothing - not your presence, your time, your gifts and talents, not your possessions and resources - nothing! Invest yourself in the lives of your fellow believers so that you too may come to experience the full benefits of fellowship and your joy may be made complete.