I’ll be honest… I’m not a huge fan of writing, let alone… writing blog posts. But, if there is something that gets me fired up the most, it’s the things that Jesus has put on my heart which I believe He has called me to address. Before I begin, if you are reading this and don’t yet consider yourself a follower of Jesus*– I strongly encourage you get to know Him by reading the Bible. Really, it’s that simple. Read it with an open heart and mind, expectant to receive blessings as you read, study, and get to know Jesus through it. Then come back here and read this. Aside from everything else I’m about to say- I want to remind you that the terms ‘follower of Jesus’, ‘Christian’, and ‘perfect’ are not synonymous.
Welcome to the Family! Even though we may have never met before, you are part of the family. This isn’t some kind of gimmick; what you are a part of is worth more than you think. You are part of the family. The one and only body/family of Jesus Christ. In Mark 3:35, Jesus declares: “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” Granted you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a part of the family. So what does it look like to actually be a part of this family, and what is your role as a brother or sister?
I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. (John 17:20-21)
As members of this divine family, our Father desires oneness and unity. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is not just for his 12 disciples, but “for those who believe” in Him. That means you. That means me. That means all of His brothers and sisters. Luke even recorded the earliest evidence of Jesus’ prayer being fulfilled:
Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. (Acts 4:32)
You’ve probably been reading this, saying to yourself… “Tom, I get that. What you are saying is true, but what’s your point?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I believe that the church as a whole needs to be closer together than it is. In some of our churches, we’ve boxed ourselves out of genuine, John 17:21 fellowship, for a fake, watered-down idea of fellowship. You see- Jesus didn’t pray that we would be ‘ok’ with and simply tolerate one another. He prayed that we would be one as Him and the Father are one. He prayed that we would be so close together, that people would notice something about our relationships together as brothers and sisters and it would freak them out. Okay, the “freak them out” part might be an exaggeration… or is it? But He did pray that through our unity, the world would know God sent Him. That kind of noticeability takes more than being just friends.
Consider this: Paul outlines the mission of leaders in the church as: “attain[ing] to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God… to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) Simply put, the primary goals for leaders in the church are to lead brothers and sisters toward the unity (or oneness) of the faith (that is, the oneness our Father desires) and for all members of the body to know Jesus intimately.
Brothers and sisters- have you felt restricted in experiencing the oneness Jesus desires with your brothers and sisters? I’m not talking about having a few close friends. I’m talking about being close with all of the people in our family.
“Brotherhood and sisterhood is not a synonym for just friends.”
– Professor Kammerzelt, Moody Bible Institute
All of us as members of the same body are called “…to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). To further emphasize this, Paul writes to the church in Philippi:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2)
What are you hiding? I’ll be the first to admit- I have a fraction of my life together. If I, as your brother, never expose myself or open up to my brothers and sisters, then I’m putting on an act that no one will ever witness except God. Which, ultimately means that I’m living a lie*. I’m also more likely to remain in my sin and remain less in Him. Try being honest and open. John put it this way:
But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7,9)
Walk in the light. Have genuine fellowship (no “fake ID’s”). Confess your sins to brothers and sisters. Expose your faults. We need to be closer together. Paul tells us to “speak the truth with… [your] neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We are members of the same body. There was no deceit in the fellowship that Jesus had with the Father and there should be no deceit in the same fellowship we have as members of the same body.
One of my sisters recently asked me the question: “Who are you closest with from the fellowship?” (Referencing the Christian fellowship on campus) I struggled to come up with a response, not because my relationships are flourishing and it’s hard to choose a few people, but because I didn’t even know how to define ‘close’. “Close in what way?” Do we hangout aside from at weekly meetings? Do we talk often? Do we know each other that well? If there’s something that negates genuine fellowship, it’s the fake kind.
- Fake fellowship says: “You’re a friend from church.”
Genuine fellowship says: “You and I do life together.”
- Fake fellowship says: “We’re friends.”
Genuine fellowship says: “We’re brothers and sisters.”
- Fake fellowship says: “I know some things about you.”
Genuine fellowship says: “I know your struggles and am here to help you through them.”
So as I write this, I’m thinking that maybe what we struggle with as a family of believers is our detachment from the world (Romans 12:2)- a lack of knowing how God describes we should live and see things. Maybe you’ve turned something God has commanded into a personal conviction. Have you combined your opinion with the infallible Word of God? It’s like water and oil. It doesn’t mix and will never mix. Are you afraid to get close with your brothers and sisters? Have you put up barriers in your life that are preventing the unity Jesus wants among us? I’ve heard brothers and sisters suggesting we put up barriers in our relationships and above all- guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23)… but is God really saying we should prioritize our own agenda over His? (Future post about guarding your heart to follow) We are to be easily moved to love; compassionate toward one another. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32)
If you’ve made it this far, then I commend you. I know there are still many points I haven’t touched in this post, but my goal in writing this wasn’t to create a guide on genuine fellowship either. I pray that through the things I have mentioned, God will open your eyes to the desperate need for unity as brothers and sisters in Him and we will make a point to experience it.
Feel free to email me or leave a comment below to open a discussion.
* Some people use the terms ‘follower of Jesus’ and ‘Christian’ interchangeably. I specifically chose to use the former to emphasize the point that what makes you a Christian is not your claim to Christianity but your choice to believe in the works of Jesus and follow Him.
* Before reading something I didn’t say… I’m definitely NOT saying to immediately go and confess your deepest, darkest sin in the center of your city