Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. – Colossians 3:15
Life is meant to be shared. Real fellowship is more than meeting for edifying discussions, or socializing. It is experiencing life together, which includes practical serving, sacrificial giving and most importantly, unselfish loving. You can worship with a million people, but real fellowship involves a smaller number of people. Jesus could have chosen 100 disciples, but He understood that 12 was about the maximum number of people for an intimate group if participation is required from all. It’s definitely important to be a part of a church family, but it’s equally as important to belong to a smaller group.
Here are some differences between real and fake fellowships:
In real fellowships people experience authenticity: We’re not talking about superficial chit-chat, but genuine heart-to-heart conversations. People honestly share what is happening in their lives- hurts, joys, failures, fears, anxiety, testimonies, prayers, etc. It’s only when we become open about our lives that we experience authentic relationships. It’s not easy to be authentic. It takes courage and humility, but let’s remember what the bible says in James 5:16: “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” Being honest by others gives us a full life.
In real fellowships, people experience mutuality: Mutuality is the art of giving and receiving, depending on each other, which is the heart of fellowship- building reciprocal relationships, sharing responsibilities and helping each other. The bible commands mutual encouragement, serving and honoring.
In real fellowship people experience sympathy: Sympathy isn’t just about giving advice, it’s about about entering in and sharing in one’s pain. Sympathy meets two fundamental needs: the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. A lot of times, we’re in a hurry to fix things that we forget to sympathize with people. But we must remember that every time we understand and affirm someone’s feelings, you build fellowship. Galatians 6:2 says, “share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” In times of deep crisis, grief and doubt, we need each other the most.
In real fellowship people experience mercy: Fellowship is a place of grace where mistakes aren’t rubbed in. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice. God says in II Corinthians 2: 7-8, “When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. You should make them sure of your love for them.” I understand it’s hard to do, but please try your best to never hold grudges, it only does bad. This is not to say continue to pursue relationships that are detrimental for you. Ending a “bad” fellowship is different from not offering mercy. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Many times, when we’re reluctant to show mercy, it could be because we don’t understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go the past, and is offered whether or not a person asks for it. Trust relates to future behavior, and must be rebuilt overtime if broken. God expects us to forgive instantly, but we are not expected to instantly trust people who hurt us, or allow them keep hurting us over and again, they must prove themselves overtime for you to trust them again. The encouragement and support we need to forgive and regain the trust of people we care dearly about can be found within the supportive context of a strong fellowship.
The next chapter talks about how to create this community with other believers…please stay tuned, I’m very interested in uncovering that myself.
Food for thought: What one step can I take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine, heart-t0-heart level?