“But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin.” 1 John 1:7 (NCV).
Many people have friends, people they like, but that does not mean they have fellowship. This is the way it is among unbelievers as well as among believers. Many people do not know the real meaning of fellowship.
Fellowship in sharing the same goal
What is real fellowship then? It is to love one another and care for one another because we all have the same goal. We are all born again and look forward to our inheritance in heaven. (1 Peter 1:3-4.) We have been chosen from among all kinds of people to be one body—the body of Christ. (Colossians 3:11-15.)
We can see the great differences that can exist among those who are chosen—they have different personalities, backgrounds, come from different cultures etc.—but in all of them Christ should be all that is important. Therefore, their fellowship is not based on liking one another because they are similar or have the same earthly interests, but they love one another because they have the same goal, and that is to become like Jesus, to share in godly nature. Fellowship means caring for one another and at the same time being changed so that we become more and more like Christ in our lives.
How to stay in fellowship
In order to stay in this love, we must not become upset and irritated by the others’ strange behaviour and habits, or stop loving someone because he falls into sin. When we see these things in our fellow believers, it is the perfect time to show our love and care even more!
Paul writes: “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you …” Colossians 3:12-13 (NCV).
We get to see the sin in our human nature when we are with other people who are not exactly the way we would like them to be and who are different to us. Because of the others’ strange behaviour and habits, we see impatience, suspicion or self-righteousness coming up inside us – from our human nature. Then it is the time for us to be cleansed in the blood of Jesus. That means that we need to admit and agree with God that these things coming up in us are wrong, and ask Him to help us overcome them. Then our hearts will be clean. Then we are cleansed in the blood of Jesus.
The person who does not want to see and admit the sin that still lives in his own human nature, comes out of fellowship and out of love. Here we need to look at ourselves and not judge and criticise the others. We can even help the others to change by overcoming these things that we get to see in ourselves, because as they experience that our love and care for them become more and more, we also make it easier for them not to come out of fellowship .
When we who know and have experienced true fellowship, spend time with and befriend those who are outside of true fellowship, our purpose is to lead them to God. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit …” 1 Peter 3:18.
Here we can see that everything Jesus suffered was so that He might lead us to God. (See also Hebrews 2:10-11.) This is also how it is for us who are followers of Jesus. Jesus experienced suffering when He said No to His own will. We also need to say No to our own will (and the sin we are tempted to) so that we can lead others to fellowship and to God.
The Spirit first wants to show us the impatience, irritation, suspicion, lack of love etc. that comes up from our human nature and that wants to destroy fellowship. If we say No to all these things and don’t give in to them, then first of all, we ourselves can stay in fellowship and goodness, and we can help others to stay in fellowship. Secondly, like Jesus, we are then able to lead those who are ‘outside’ into fellowship and lead them to God.
Such people will never be lonely.