Bookmarks in our Life Together

I read today, with my son, and showed him the bookmark as we closed the book, telling him of the dear friend who made it for me, a wedding gift from my maid of honor (who will always hold a dear place in my heart). Lately I’ve been reminiscing all the dear friends along my life’s journey with whom I have shared true fellowship. In college, as a Young Life leader, our Area Director Allen Miller reminded us often that unless Jesus came into our conversation, it was not fellowship, just conversation. There have been some with whom this happened easily in life, but the older I get the more rare it seems. I know that sometimes the problem is my own insecurities, most of which have arisen from broken fellowship. In our American churches, fraught with individualism, those who walk away deeply wound others and might never know.

By my sophomore year in college, I had a professor and pastor who became a mentor. He gave me the assignment of looking up all the one another passages in the New Testament. A life changing exercise. Let me comment though, that this study should properly begin in Genesis with the reminder that it is not good to be alone! An understanding of the community enjoyed by the Triune Godhead is essential to a true appreciation of His love, the love He fills us with, and the loves He commands us to show others (especially those of the household of faith). And in Leviticus God made it plain that we must love our neighbor as ourselves (Jesus reiterates this, but it was already the basis for so many commands and laws).

A Classic: Life Together

Every couple of years I re-read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Recently I saw “an influencer” telling others to ditch this phrase. I raise my glass and say “here’s to Life Together! May we never tire of being His gathered people; let us enjoy this fellowship so that our joy may be full!” Let us encourage one another. And when you are weary, let your heart be encouraged by those who are walking in the Spirit, abiding in His words, rooted and grounded in His love.

Read I John 1:3-5; true fellowship only happens in the Body that shares the Word (believing it is alive and active as Hebrews states; sharing it as commanded in the NT epistles, abiding in it as Jesus calls us to in John 14-17.). In the Body, His Body, the Church; even your local church–as defined in the NT, not according to our feelings and intuition. I tried that for a season when superficial fellowship was all I saw; we gathered as a house church of hurting people. Thanks be to God, He brought me out of that, and into what is now Boonsboro Presbyterian, PCA. It was a joy to find therein friends with whom I could freely share this Word.

Distance does not tear apart true fellowship, though it must change. Distance has made the hope of heaven more sweet. And the rise of technology affords us the opportunity to call, text, or send messages on various apps. We can keep you sharing life together. We have been made to drink of the One Spirit Who connects us.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13

Generational Life Together

When you read through Titus, you notice the responsibility of older and younger generations within His body. Does all of your fellowship happen with peers (as though we are stuck in public school)? For thousands of years, families and communities enjoyed generational relationships. Since Dewey and the rise of industrialized schooling, children become accustomed to relating merely to peers (and getting in trouble for talking during school, having their seat moved, getting detention for talking, etc–ask me how I know).

The preference for being around people in the same situation is not fostered in us by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. We need peers, and older, and younger. We need to let go of preferences that are not rooted in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Though every New Testament Epistle encourages us in our life together, not every every epistle has explicit “one another” statements. It is worth your time to journal through all that you find in these passages that direct our fellowship, instructing us and encouraging us. Perhaps add that journaling exercise to your summer bucket list? My prayer for us all, as we strive to live life together as He guides and directs us:

O LORD, God of love, and patience, in whose Name we have been called, and who has named each church family–keep us Your willing servants, Your beloved children, Your body, away from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over us. You have given us a spirit of love, power, and sound mind. May we walk in Your Spirit and be of One Spirit–one mind, one voice, glorifying You. Let us work for the unity of Your body in the bond of peace. May we not–like selfish beasts of prey–tear off our own limbs, our own flesh, muscles and ligaments. Let us take every thought captive, and fight the spirit of divisiveness, and of isolation. We want to commit to Your ways, so let us love one another, accept one another, forgive one another, restore one another, admonish and teach one another, and comfort and encourage one another, especially with Your words–that Jesus died and rose again, “even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, that we who are alive and remain will be caught up together…so we shall always be with the Lord.” We look to You, our Lord, our Head, our hope of glory.

photo by Ingrid Hall on Unsplash