It is easy in our culture to live alone. This is true of married people as well as single people. It is true of family members and clubs and social gatherings. It becomes more and more true all the time. We have social media that does not permit real socializing. We think we are sharing simply because we click on something that says “share”. There is no more lonely place than a crowd and we live in crowds of gatherings of people who are alone – at work, on the bus, at home, and sadly, in our churches.
We are created for fellowship. Fellowship with God, fellowship with others. The Scriptures call the church a body whose various parts all work together for the good of the whole. It calls the church a building that is being built to become a temple where God dwells. These are pictures of community, of fellowship, of real sharing. Far too often our times of fellowship are gatherings of individuals who are simply people who are alone, all in the same room at the same time. This is not what church is meant to be.
Fellowship is one of the most powerful things that God has given us to fight sin and ignorance and contentment with mediocrity. It is a huge part of the weaponry against sin. There will be those who say that since they have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and fellowship with God through Jesus Christ that they do not need anything else. There are Christians in the world who are forced to be separated from Christian fellowship due to persecution, imprisonment, and the absence of other believers in their vicinity. But that is not the norm and it is not what is meant to be.
The God with whom we fellowship has given us other people. We need flesh and blood to associate, and communicate, and fellowship, and interact with. We need people to help us in our struggles, to love us, to be open and honest with us without us needing to fear that what we say will be broadcast to others and damage us. We need confidants and soul mates with whom we can share absolutely anything without fear of rejection and judgement and hardheartedness, who will be honest and loving and helpful and supportive even when we are wrong and they must say so. We lose our battles against temptation because we fight alone. We misinterpret Scripture because we interpret it alone. We are ineffective body parts because we do not act in concert with the other parts of the body.
This is killing us and it is so sad because it is so unnecessary. God has brought us into fellowship with His Son and with His people for our good. I think one of the chief ways that we are conformed to the world, missing the transformation that comes from the renewing of our minds, is the individualism that marks our culture. We seem to have this “just Jesus and me” attitude that Jesus never gave. When Elijah grumbled to God that he was the only faithful person left, God did not say “Well, you have me”. God made us and He knows what we are like. He said to Elijah, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him”. (I Kings 19:18) In other words “You are not alone”. See I Peter 5:8-9.
It is hard to go against the grain. But that is what Christianity is and does. There are voices in the culture, non-Christian, who bemoan the individualism that marks us. We should not have to hear their voice before we show the world that the church is never a place where people are alone. The very definition of church denies that. The church is people, a fellowship of people united by Christ and brought into fellowship so that we can grow together into His likeness. True fellowship is very hard work. But God says it is worth it. We should become truly counter-cultural and surrender up our individualism, no matter what it takes.
A couple of songs about this. The first is a mournful tune from the seventies about the pain of loneliness. Let us pray that part of what the church accomplishes is to prevent this from being said by those who are in our churches.
Then there’s this well known gem from the TV series “Cheers”. Who doesn’t want their church to be such a place?
Here are a few texts that teach about the community of the faithful:
Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I Corinthians 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
This whole rant today was sparked by this. Good stuff.