THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE
EXPERIENCING LIFE TOGETHER
God intends for us to experience life together, which the Bible calls fellowship. This word has lost most of its biblical meaning, and now usually refers to socializing, food and fun. But real biblical fellowship is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, serving each other, sacrificial giving, and comforting each other. Jesus example of 12 disciples is a small enough fellowship so that everyone participates.
For this reason every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church. Sometimes this is a home fellowship group, a Sunday school class or a Bible study class. This is where real community can take place. But many small groups are somewhat superficial and do not take advantage of experiencing what real genuine fellowship can be like. It happens when people are honest and are able to share.
Yes, it is difficult for people to share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses and ask for help and prayers. Many people are concerned about what other in their community will think about them, and about their image and that it will start gossip. But sharing life can be started with a good friend that you trust and it will help you spiritually.
Most churches still revolve around relationships where most of the time there still is a lot of pretending, role playing, politicking, and superficial politeness and shallow conversations. Many people wear masks and keep their guard up and act as if everything is rosy and good in their lives. But God already knows the inside of your heart and how things really are in your life. Only when we are open, can fellowship be a blessing.
1 John 1:7-8 says, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” The world thinks that intimacy only occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. Darkness hides our hurts, faults, fears and failures.
But in the light we bring them all out in the open and admit who we really are. But this requires both courage and humility. This means facing our fear of exposure, rejection and being hurt again. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
We only grow by taking risks, and the most difficult risk of all is to be honest with ourselves and with others. Mutuality is the art of giving and receiving. It is depending on each other and that only comes with mutual trust. 1 Corinthians 12:24-25, “God has put the body together such that extra care is given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony so that all the members care for each other.”
Romans 1:12 says, “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” The Bible wants mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, mutual serving and mutual honoring. Romans 14:19 says, “So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” But since we are all works in progress, let us work towards this with help from the Holy Spirit.
In real fellowship people experience sympathy. Sympathy is not giving advice or offering quick, cosmetic help. Sympathy is entering in and sharing the pain of others. Sympathy says, “I understand somewhat what you are going through, and it’s neither strange nor crazy.” Colossians 3:12 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Humans have two fundamental needs, the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. Every time you understand and affirm someone’s feelings, you build fellowship. The problem is that we are often in such a hurry to fix things that we don’t have time to sympathize. We often are preoccupied with our own hurts. And self-pity dries up any sympathy for other people.
There are different levels of fellowship such as the fellowship of sharing, the fellowship of studying the Bible together and the fellowship of serving together. The most intense is the fellowship of suffering together where we feel each other’s pain and grief and carry each other’s burdens. Those are Christians who are being persecuted and martyred. Galatians 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
It is in small group fellowship of friends that have faith in God for us that we can pull through. Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes are not rubbed in, but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice. We all need grace because we all stumble and fall and need help in getting back to the Lord. 2 Corinthians 2:7, “Now, it is time to forgive and comfort. Otherwise he/she may be overcome by discouragement.”
You cannot have fellowship without forgiveness. Because we are imperfect sinful people, we will hurt each other when we are together for a long time. Sometimes it’s intentionally, sometimes it’s not, but either way, it takes great mercy and grace to maintain a fellowship. Colossians 3:13, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you. They must prove they have changed over time. And the place to do that is in a small group fellowship.