WEEK 2: Fellowship
‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.’ Hebrews 10:25
Throughout history there has been a constant struggle to find the balance between the individual and society. While the citizens of Plato’s ideal republic were to have no possessions but live entirely for the good of the community, Aristotle swung the other way, believing that the happiness of the individual was of prime importance. Western society has been shaped by Aristotle’s teaching, which gave birth to the ‘me first’ individualism that is so prevalent today. And it is this very world-view that fellowship challenges.
Like worship, ‘fellowship’ is a familiar word to most Christians, but also like worship, it is often misunderstood. We tend to think of fellowship as that time before or after a Sunday service when we get to chat together for a while, maybe over tea and coffee, if we’re blessed with such luxuries!
Recently I came across an advert for a Christian group that promised ‘Fun, Food and Fellowship – no commitment necessary!’ Is this what we have been called to – some kind of religious social group? Or is there something more?
As we turn our attention to this second area of spiritual discipline, we will be looking at what fellowship is and why it is important, together with how to engage in fellowship and how it helps to shape our relationship with God as well as with one another.
Day 1: For the Common Good
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34
As He and His disciples gathered together at the Last Supper, Jesus took a towel and some water and began washing their feet – even the feet of Judas Iscariot. And in this setting, Jesus laid down the greatest challenge for His followers: ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ It can be easy to read this as a command to simply get on with each other and nothing more, but consider the enormity of what Jesus is saying here. We are not merely to get along or put up with each other, we are not even just to like each other, but we are to love each other as much as Jesus loves us. Jesus gave up everything for us, and we ‘must’ love one another just the same. Here, then, Jesus has given us the call to fellowship.
The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia and it is related to the words for ‘share’ and ‘common’. Essentially this word means ‘community’, but it is more than just a group of those who happen to live in the same area. It is people who share common interests, aims, goals and values – those who share their lives together, living not just for themselves, but for the good of everyone.
The church in Corinth was by no means a model of godly fellowship. There were factions and arguments with people caring only about themselves. This was even reflected during communion as some people were gorging themselves on the bread and getting drunk on the wine, leaving little or nothing for others!
As for using spiritual gifts in their meetings, the Corinthians would often shout over one another in their desire to be heard. Paul addressed this issue in his first letter to them, explaining that the purpose of these gifts was not to make the individual feel important, but was for the building up of the whole community of believers. ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (1 Cor. 12:7).
Fellowship involves sharing our lives together, thinking of others before ourselves, and it was this that Paul was trying to hammer home to a church where people saw themselves as more important than everyone else.
Having created the first man and given him the task of caring for the Garden of Eden, it is as if God then took a step back to consider His work so far. Throughout Genesis 1, there was the constant refrain of the creation being ‘good’. Now, however, God spotted a problem. ‘The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”’ (Gen. 2:18). And so He made Eve, the first woman, and commissioned them together to multiply and fill the earth – a worldwide community of God’s people!