THE ALREADY BUT NOT YET
If you are a disciple of Christ and are currently reading this, you live in a paradox. That paradox is that you belong to a large group of people given several different names in Scripture. Ekklesia is one greek word used to describe you. We translate it as the word “church.” This word literally means “the called out ones” (plural). Other names given to us are found in 1 Peter 2:9a:
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,…”
We are these things in the present, but also in reference to the coming age, we are these things in the future (Revelation 7:9). We will be with one another and people we don’t even know yet, in heaven, with Christ, in worship, and for eternity.
So why is fellowship so important for us now? Because the “not yet” impacts the “already”. I hope this isn’t too confusing, but to make it more clear I’ll say it this way. We are to behave now based on our future position. This is why the New Testament refers to Christians in the plural. Any people groups who share a common goal, common interests, desires, and motivations gather together and form their own community. Star Wars fans gather with other Star Wars fans. Cubs fans rally around other Cubs fans. Razorbacks, as bad as they can be, have fans that bring themselves together despite cultural, economical, and social boundaries.
Think of this in light and in contrast of our current society. Despite the fact that we are so connected via social media, we are still so isolationistic. In gaining ability to connect digitally, we are losing ability to connect verbally. We are gaining popularity in a sphere that, materially, doesn’t even exist, and is more often than not, merely a mirage. Why? Because our social media presence is simply that, a presence; a facade, a portrayal of who we want people to think we are. We have control over that and since we have that control, we control what people think about us; keeping people at arm’s length from knowing the “real me.”
Or, we simply enjoy our routines, our pursuits, our ambitions, our rest, and our recreation to the point of neglecting our need for community and fellowship. In my former blog post regarding the sin of isolation, I quoted a Proverb that relates isolation with pride and arrogance. Isolation, at it’s root level, assumes that you know best and everyone else does not. When isolation becomes our desire on a massive scale, we are deciding to refuse listening to others and the common method that God uses to rebuke, correct, heal, direct, and guide us: fellowship.
Simply stated, if we neglect fellowship, we are neglecting our own good and our professed position.
WE NEED ONE ANOTHER
I realize there are a lot of factors that play into us avoiding fellowship. Some of us fear accountability before others. Some of us fear being exposed. Some of us buy the lie that we are alone in our doubt and faithlessness. Some of us are introverted and feel anxiety around a lot of people, and prefer to be alone to rejuvenate. I understand that. Those are legitimate fears, and I listed those because I wrestle with all of the above. But God has promised good to us, and He will use His Word in conjunction with His Spirit, and through His “body” (another label given to His people) to relay comfort, supply correction, promote healing, give direction, and thorough guidance.
Think about King David not having the fellowship of Jonathan to help him keep safe from Jonathan’s father, Saul, from killing him. Think about Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2. What did Paul write to them? “live in harmony the Lord.” Think about Paul without Timothy. Why did Paul say regarding him that he is “my true son in the faith?” Think about Jesus without His disciples. It would have been much easier for Christ to simply bypass training the twelve, but He wanted them to be with Him. They needed Him, too. Through being with Christ, His disciples learned what they needed to endure what He had planned for them. Timothy needed Paul to endure what God had planned for him. David needed Jonathan to have a shoulder to lean on and a shield to hide under.
Fellowship is the cornerstone by which we grow in discipleship and fruit-bearing that pleases our Heavenly Father.