Fellowship with other believers is a wonderful thing. In coming together we find comfort, strength, spiritual growth, humility, and joy. We find a home away from home in our travels and rest from our labour among friends.
All of which is grounded, and contingent upon walking with Jesus.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
The cooperation and unity that flows from our fellowship are not things negotiated. The left hand does not cooperate with the right hand. Rather, the function of both is solely dependent on instructions from the head.
This means that as people walk in the light of God’s word it’s possible to enjoy unity and harmony with one another while doing very different things.
Perhaps you have sensed this among some of the people in your Church. Though we are a people of diverse backgrounds and experiences you sense the bond, created and sustained by Jesus, and your affection for others grows and grows.
As we walk in the light, the bonds of love and fellowship just are.
And, if this is true, which it clearly is, and you have been huddling together long enough, then you have probably also experienced its antithesis. That strange, uncomfortable drift that slowly emerges between you and one of those brothers and sisters dear to your heart.
I’m not here talking about the very natural coming and going of people in our lives. We all have seasons of intimacy with one another. These are ordained by God to bring us through to the next chapter. I’m also not referring to the artificial divisions that come with the folly of barracking for the Newcastle Knights or believing that Bob Dylan can actually sing.
I’m talking about that sinking feeling of being progressively distant in your fellowship with other believers.
Ever experienced this? What might have happened?
Well, if John is right (and I think he is), then it’s possible that someone has kicked the lamp at their feet and stumbled into a dark alley.
Perhaps they (or you) have begun to develop attitudes and habits that are inconsistent with Jesus. Perhaps you have found yourself entangled in some sin or unbelief.
Perhaps the person you were once close to has begun to doubt the truth of God’s word and is silently drifting from the faith.
Though often hard to describe, the fellowship believers enjoy is discernable, and so we also notice when the chords that bind us begin to fray. We can’t always put our finger on it, but there it is, and it grieves us.
In time, the reasons for this slow drift usually become manifest.
The young man who was once burning bright in zeal comes to you and confesses some struggle or crisis that has slowly been chipping at his faith. He confesses that he has been “walking away” for ages. Some hardship has rocked a mother’s world and bitterness has crept in and taken root and she no longer feels connected to her friends at church.
These divisions, subtle as they are, can often be heartbreaking, and no amount of planning, finger-pointing, counselling, accommodating, or overlooking the drift can overcome the distance. The reason is that the distance is only ever overcome by walking in the light.
It is only in walking with Jesus, John writes, that we can truly have and enjoy the whole-hearted fellowship promised in the gospel. Fellowship that challenges and strengthens the soul and cheers the heart.
It is only through repentance and reconciliation with Jesus that we can be truly reconciled with one another.
It is only as each of us takes refuge under the blood of Jesus and walks with Him in the light of God’s word that we are able to enjoy the guilt-free harmony and freedom that walking with Jesus brings to Christian fellowship.