Summary: Love for one another is a prerequisit for real fellowship with one another
He was a denominational executive who found himself being accused of heresy simply because he’d participated in a prayer service with people who weren’t Christians. Another congregation flaunted a young man who was sleeping with his stepmother. Still another group saw those who lived lives against God’s word as worthy of honor and praise… Now the problem with all of these examples is that they are true. And what’s more at the root is an understanding of “fellowship” that has some how gotten skewed toward something that the Bible never meant it to be.
Let me suggest that the Bible never makes our feelings or experiences the test stone for what’s right and wrong. Although we see God using the experiences of men and women to fine tune their understanding of God’s actions there is an observable and separate truth that exists whether we like it or not.
Fellowship is often seen as the “warm fuzzy” time for the church. It’s the get togethers, the weddings, the potlucks and the baby showers. It’s billed as the caroling party, the church picnics and even camping trips. It’s often equated with a sense of belonging and that’s good because those in fellowship do belong. What happens is that it also sometimes limits those who belong to those who are like us, whom we like or with whom we share a common history or interest.
It’s easy for me to have “fellowship” with someone who has my type of sense of humor and who loves science fiction. It’s much harder for me to have “fellowship” with someone whose first love is opera or daytime soaps. This is exactly the problem because the Bible never bases our fellowship with each other on our own likes and common heritage.
Fellowship with one another is more than just sharing time it’s sharing ones life. It is living a life of love toward others. It’s being loving and seeking to love others. And the foundation for this love and our fellowship is the depth of the relationship we have with God. John writes in his first letter. “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(4:19-21) If we love then we have fellowship because we share the common bonding of Christ’s love. If we have never said yes to God’s love; if we’ve just been good people rather than sold out to Jesus; if we’ve tried to do what was expected instead of giving control of our lives to Christ we may find that our fellowship with others is sadly lacking.
Another aspect of fellowship with one another is that it’s a very easy place for sin to enter into our lives. That’s exactly what has happened into the three incidents I led off the sermon with. People with their pet sins embrace others out of a sense of “fellowship”. They misuse and abuse God’s word by excusing behaviors because they want to be “loving”. Others have their own pet sins they want pushed and so anyone who even shows the slightest tendency is slapped down three ways—fast hard and continuously.
Acts 6 shows how one of the first complaints had the potential of destroying a growing unity and fellowship between those Jewish believers who spoke Greek and those who spoke Hebrew. The apostles were wise enough to recognize what was happening and set up a way to deal with it.
What happens in a church today is that some find it easier to shy away from fellowship than truly enter into a time of sharing themselves with others. I’ve heard the excuses and so have you, “They’re different.” “I don’t get anything out of that type of worship.” “I’ve tried it before and it wasn’t good.” “It can’t be done, it’s been tried” and the like. Well the fact is that Jesus told us that the road was narrow and steep. We were told that few would really walk it. We were told that it was our job to love others in the same way we love God.
So our fellowship must be broadened and expanded till we are willing to embrace and learn from others even when it makes us uncomfortable and nervous. One of the most horrible complaint against the church in 21st Century America is that 11:00 on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week. And I don’t care who is to blame. All I know is that we’re responsible for our own lives and accountable to God for how we live out the fellowship he calls us to have.