Fellow believers, walking the way through life with its trials and joys to our final resting place with God; when was the last time you enjoyed a heart to heart conversation with someone who “strengthened [your] hand in God” (1 Sam. 23:16)? Do you, like the apostle Paul, bring your friends before God in every prayer of yours, thanking Him for their “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:4)? God, through the Psalmist describes with great eloquence this treasure that we are able to enjoy during our time on this earth in Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
It is my experience, and I have observed in the conversation of others, that the “good” and “pleasant” state arising from fellowship in the gospel is quite rare. Looking back at a typical day, I often find that such fellowship is minute in comparison to conversation about worldly things. And when the topic of discussion finally does turn to the gospel, there may first be a layer of superficial talk; and if the heart is stirred, there may be a tough layer of disagreement, criticism of others, or sarcasm. Rare indeed are those nuggets of refreshing, heart lifting fellowship in the gospel.
Is such experience a good, but unnecessary, treat rarely enjoyed by Christians? Not at all. God makes known to us that we as Christians who know the love of God in Christ ought to enjoy such fellowship as a daily part of our life. In fact, such unity that brings this good and pleasant state is commanded in 1 Corinthians 1:10. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
In order to heed this command, and enjoy Christian fellowship, we must be living in close covenant fellowship with God. Head-knowledge alone will not bring us into the pleasant fellowship we seek. Head-knowledge may carry you through an endless thrill ride of learned discussion, but it never brings that good and pleasant dwelling in unity. You will need that covenant fellowship with God according to knowledge. Such knowledge of God, rooted in God’s word alone, brings true joy that makes you bubble over and desire to talk to other believers.
Such fellowship requires that your deepest being be open and exposed to others. This openness is difficult because we spend so much time trying to defend ourselves from hurt by others around us, that it is difficult to really open our spiritual hearts and expose them to possible assault. Our hearts are sensitive to even a faint whiff of the poisons of sin. A simple “look”, an attitude of indifference, or an indication of disapproval can bring the doors shut with a slam. But in this exposure, we can find confidence in our personal fellowship with God to expose and reveal your heart to others. Our strength is in God. It is only our pride that fears a personal attack.
It is easy and a sign of spiritual cowardice to barge into a spiritual discussion between brothers and sisters in the Lord with sarcasm and proud criticism. Don’t do it yourself, and when others do it to you, pray for grace to be silent or the wisdom to give a God glorifying response.
Not only must the love of God be woven into our soul, we must love our fellow believers. Remember, he too is opening his heart. He has the joy of salvation to express. He has knowledge of God that he desires to make known. Listen to her words for expressions of the peace and joy of salvation, and rejoice with her. Belittling, sarcastic, or critical remarks are sure to wound the heart that has been opened to you.
Disagreement can be a very rewarding exercise when the love of God and the brother in the Lord are recognized and clearly seen as the foundation. We can feel quite confident that we are right, but what a blessing we can receive when we humbly listen and come to see more clearly a truth of God set forth from His word.
Yes, God’s word alone must be the basis for any good and pleasant fellowship. A religious discussion based solely on your ideas or feelings will gradually spiral away from God, strip every ounce of blessedness from the fellowship, and leave you in bitterness. If personal ideas or feelings are introduced, seek God’s word together to find a common ground there, before exploring further the riches of God’s grace.
The efforts put forth in Christian fellowship will bring blessing to you, as well as the whole body of Christ. Pray for grace to obey this command of God.