"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, July 29, 2013

Focused Fellowship

The word fellowship has many meanings. In the church today, it is most often understood to mean a time or opportunity for social interaction. During this time, we get to know one another: career, kids, marriage, geographical background, and the rest of the demographic data. We may discover that we share common interests or passions (fishing, sports, arts and crafts, music). Fellowship in the New Testament, however, had more to do with spiritual agreement and common missions or goals. This sharing of beliefs, goals and missions with our fellows (those around us) became what we call fellowship. The Greek, koinonia means, “ what we have in common,” usually in a spiritual sense.

Having reminded the Philippians of the foundation upon which they can now stand firm, Paul’s argument now finds direct and practical application in the fellowship of those in the church:

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with one another in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:2-3 (italics mine).

Paul reminds them of their fellowship with him, as yokefellows and fellow workers, and that their mission and goals have eternal importance and outcome; their names are in the book of life. In light of these things, and the foundation upon which they stand firm, it is not only possible but necessary that they “agree with one another in the Lord” and that devoted brothers in Christ do what they can to help this agreement along.

Being human, it is entirely too easy for us to focus on our areas of disagreement, our individual preferences and our personality clashes. These things, Paul implies, are unimportant in comparison with what we do have in common: Jesus died to give us eternal life and unity in him, and he is coming again to bring all things under his benevolent control.

When I am tempted to harbor resentment or to fantasize about vindication, I sometimes imagine Jesus walking into the room and settling in beside me. As he looks into my eyes and heart, I am not proud of what he sees there—all the more when he literally comes to the earth again and we see him resurrected and in the flesh! I sincerely doubt that our superficial differences will amount to much at that point. This is what it means to “agree with one another in the Lord.” As we focus on what (and whom) we have in common, we see the trivia for what it is and leave it behind. We press forward, following the example of Paul, to the fulfillment of all that Christ has for us, individually and as the Body of Christ.