We are called in the church of God to be brothers and sisters. We may not be related in the flesh and blood, but God wants us to have a growing relationship with each other.
God wants us to have a close and spiritual relationship. The Greek word “koinonia,” which is translated as “fellowship,” denotes communication, sharing and caring. The evidence of fellowship can be seen in the early Christians. Act 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Fellowship is about partnership, participation and communication. This relationship is needed to show that we can love one another as an act of following the law of God. Joh 13:34 And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Fellowship is also a way of carrying one’s burden. Gal 6:2 Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.
Brothers and sister in the church of God need to have a growing relationship with each other, because this will make the whole body, strong and united in faith, knowledge and love. Indeed, this relationship is very important.
Eph 4:12-16 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
God wants us to be united through fellowship. Anyone who becomes a member of the church, though from a different walk of life, will be united to the whole body. This is possible because we receive the same teachings and doctrines. 1Co 1:9-10 God is to be trusted, the God who called you to have fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.
And so, we will work as one body. Although the body has many parts and those parts have different functions, it can achieve its goal as long as the parts are working together in harmony.
Another advantage of having fellowship together is to help us strengthen one another. We are weak in our own little way, and each of us can help in strengthening that weakness. We cannot show love, mercy, humility, goodness, meekness and cannot carry one another’s burden without the help of others.
Therefore, being with one another gives us the opportunity to have a close, positive and spiritual relationship.
Col 3:12-13 You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.
Rom 12:9-10 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.
We are called to serve God and one another, to show love, and through fellowship, we can achieve this purpose. Rom 12:11-13 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.
Sharing is one example of fellowship. Sharing means not only giving what we have. Sharing can mean that we share with the joy and sufferings of one another. Since the church is likened to a body, we feel whatever someone feels, because we are connected to each other. If we are not that close with one another, it is impossible to feel that.
According to Paul’s letters, ministers of God have the usual experience of sufferings and travails. This is because they travel from one place to another and meet different kinds of people. 2Co 6:4 Instead, in everything we do we show that we are God’s servants by patiently enduring troubles, hardships, and difficulties.
We can read in Paul’s letter how they experience troubles and sufferings just to preach the Gospel of God. 2Co 11:26-29 In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress.
When they receive their duties from God, they know that they need to endure the sufferings that they need to experience. 2Co 12:10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Even the Prophets sent by God experienced trials, sufferings and even death.
But in spite of all these hardships that they experienced, they continue to remain in faith and on their duties. Not only because they have large faith, they remained strong because there are many brothers and sisters who share with their sufferings. 2Co 1:7 So our hope in you is never shaken; we know that just as you share in our sufferings, you also share in the help we receive.
Who are these people who share with their sufferings?
Paul says, as you help us by means of your prayers for us. So it will be that the many prayers for us will be answered, and God will bless us; and many will raise their voices to him in thanksgiving for us. (2 Cor. 1:11)
The members of the church shared with them. They have carried each other as God wants them to do. This is about fellowship magnified among the brothers and sisters of the early church. It has been the duty of everyone to help each other and share with whatever they experience.
One example is the people of Philippians. They help Paul in the financial aspect of propagating the words of God. Php 4:18 Here, then, is my receipt for everything you have given me—and it has been more than enough! I have all I need now that Epaphroditus has brought me all your gifts. They are like a sweet-smelling offering to God, a sacrifice which is acceptable and pleasing to him. Php 4:14 But it was very good of you to help me in my troubles.
But not only in sufferings do these brethren shared with the Ministers of God, they also shared with their joys. 2Co 1:7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
There is a saying, “the whole body feels what a little part endures.” This is the same with the joy that the whole body feels. 1Co 12:26-28 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. In the church God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perform miracles, followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues.
Members of the church equally received the same faith, teachings and doctrines. So, they are united in faith and in hope. They hope for one prize, the promise of salvation from God. If there is something that motivates them, it is the same spirit of hope coming from the words of God.
Not all of them are willing to share with the sufferings of the other brethren. Some of them are willing to share with joys but not in travails and troubles.
Who are these people?
Not all of them have opened their hearts to share with everything. Sad, but true, some of them can be likened to Scribes and the Pharisees who are more than willing to obey the commandments of God, but only to the commands that are easy for them to obey. They obey God selectively. Mat 23:4 They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. There are some who don’t want to participate in the troubles.
The rich man who talked with Jesus was disappointed when he learned that he needs to sell his riches just to follow Christ. He needs to sacrifice in order to inherit the kingdom of God. We all want to enter God’s kingdom, yet some of us don’t want to make sacrifices. Some of us are like those who only want to experience joys but not sufferings. Mat 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.
What shall we do so that we feel the need to share not only with the joys but as well as the sufferings of the members of the church?
If a member is closely fitted to the church, there is no reason why he can’t feel the need to share himself with the rest of the brethren. If he truly fitted himself to the church and give importance to the teachings, then the teachings will push him to share with the joys and troubles of each and every one.
Part of serving God is to experience the troubles and hardships, and all of us, as a member of God’s church are not exempted in any way with these troubles. Whatever is our condition, or duties we received from God, it is our duty to share not only with the joys, but as well as the many sufferings of the church.
If we share with the sufferings, then we understand that not all the days we suffer, not all the time we feel pain and not at all times we feel depressions. Jesus promised that the sufferings we feel now will be translated into happiness.
Joh 16:20-22 I am telling you the truth: you will cry and weep, but the world will be glad; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into gladness. When a woman is about to give birth, she is sad because her hour of suffering has come; but when the baby is born, she forgets her suffering, because she is happy that a baby has been born into the world. That is how it is with you: now you are sad, but I will see you again, and your hearts will be filled with gladness, the kind of gladness that no one can take away from you.
And if we enjoy giving and sharing with the needs of the church, let us be reminded that God do not put it in vain. They are all counted as holy deeds in the sight of God.
2Pe 1:4-8 In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the lesson we need to learn here?
It is a commandment to love one another, especially to those who are in the church of God. We obey this command because we want to show how much we love God. To love God is to obey His commands, and one of His commands is to love one another earnestly. 1Pe 4:7-8 But the end of all things is near: so be serious in your behaviour and keep on the watch with prayer; And most of all be warm in your love for one another; because in love there is forgiveness for sins without number:
If we need to participate in sharing and giving ourselves for the cause of good and holiness, do not with hold ourselves. We do everything for the love of God.
Christ said, Luk 6:32-36 If you have love for those who have love for you, what credit is it to you? for even sinners have love for those who have love for them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is it to you? for even sinners do the same. And if you let those have the use of your money, from whom you are hoping to get it back, what credit is it to you? even sinners do so to sinners, hoping to get back as much as they gave. But be loving to those who are against you and do them good, and give them your money, not giving up hope, and your reward will be great and you will be the sons of the Most High: for he is kind to evil men, and to those who have hard hearts. Be full of pity, even as your Father is full of pity.
One of the model of sharing themselves to the church is the members from Macedonia. Despite of their poor condition, they give more than what is expected of them, because they want to share, to give and help the church. And they know by doing these things, God is truly delighted.
2Co 8:1-5 Our friends, we want you to know what God’s grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia. They have been severely tested by the troubles they went through; but their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving, even though they are very poor. I can assure you that they gave as much as they could, and even more than they could. Of their own free will they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God’s people in Judea. It was more than we could have hoped for! First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will they gave themselves to us as well.