by Brother Steve Rankin
In 1 John 1:3, we find this word: “What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us” (CEB). To draw people together in Christ. To hold him in common. To orient our lives around Christ and, as the closing of Matthew 28 tells us, to obey everything that he teaches us. This is Christian fellowship.
1 John also mentions the breaking of fellowship. In 2:19, we read that some people “went out from among us,” with John concluding, “They were never really a part of us.” These difficult words reveal a paradox about Christian fellowship. On the one hand, it is narrow. The New Testament presentation of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and reigning, is the ground and center of fellowship. The world is full of opinions about who Jesus is and what he has done. Some are beyond the pale. Some break fellowship. The gate to life, Christ taught us, is narrow.
Yet, once Jesus’ Lordship as the center point of our faith is established, the possibilities of fellowship are limitless. My wife and I once had the glorious experience, early in our lives, of participating in a church made up of people very different from one another, culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and socio-economically. Our fellowship included high-ranking military officers and corporate executives and government officials, as well as refugees and outcasts and people escaping extremely difficult situations with virtually nothing. And all sorts of people in-between. We came from Asia and Africa and Europe and North America. Because we had fellowship with the Son, we had fellowship with one another.
Every time I read that beautiful picture in Revelation 7, of the multitude from every tribe and people and language, gathered around the throne, worshipping the Lamb, I harken back to that little fellowship of about a hundred or so people, very different from one another, not agreeing on every point of doctrine, but rock solid at the core. It isn’t natural for people to gather this way. Evolutionary biologists and psychologists tell us that empathy extends only to those closest to us, the most like us, genetically and culturally. What Christ is doing in the world to expand the fellowship is truly a divine work.
And we get to join him in it. For the fellowship to be true fellowship, we need to be rock solid at the core. Are we in Christ? The Bible proclaims that Jesus is Lord. Have we settled this truth for ourselves? Have we surrendered to him? If so, then the fellowship we enjoy is as expansive as the world’s peoples.
Fellowship in Christ is meant to be shared. May we share it, until the world knows the King of love.
Brother Steve serves on the Board of Directors of the United Christian Ashrams International and as an Evangelist and Bible Teacher.