Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 9, 2014
Everybody needs to belong to a fellowship
One of the best books I have ever read is titled Life Together, a Christian classic written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the book the famous German martyr explains beautifully the true nature of the church as a “fellowship of believers.”
The church exists in the world to meet a universal human need, the need to belong. There is a strange line in an old song that says: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” I say strange because the truth is, all people need people because life has little meaning without fellowship.
Everyone needs fellowship. So there are two kinds of people: people who realize they need people and people who refuse to admit they need people.
There are words that conjure up good feelings for most of us: comradeship, companions, camaraderie, friendship and partnership. On the other hand there are words that create a feeling of sadness: alone, confined, solitary, friendless, introverted, unsociable, aloof, cold and hostile.
The first set of words suggests a life of joy and meaning. The last set pictures a life that none of us wants to live. That is because we are made for fellowship. Fulfillment comes through fellowship with likeminded persons.
I have done many things alone and gone many places by myself. But my most treasured memories are times I shared life with my wife, my family or my friends. Alone my life is empty. I need to share life with others. I need people. We all do.
And that is what the church is at its best – a fellowship, a loving, redemptive fellowship. The authentic church is a gathering of friends who care about each other and who come together to worship and praise God.
Church is not meant to be a place where people are mean to one another. That ruins it. Church is meant to be a fellowship where people, despite their weaknesses, may love and be loved. At its best it is a fellowship in which flawed people are accepted despite their flaws.
That fellowship is important is not surprising when you consider that we were made by a “fellowship.” In the Book of Genesis, God says, “Let us make man in our image.” Our image – what does that mean? It means what the church calls the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit created us. God is One, but He is three in one, thus the word “our.”
Some people find meaningful fellowship in a bar or tavern. There they find acceptance by people who care for them. Such caring makes a difference. When the church is truly a loving fellowship of believers, people are able to live in an atmosphere of forgiveness. Since we are all flawed, the fellowship of the church is not perfect. Because we have been forgiven in spite of our sins, we can forgive others in spite of their sins. To feel accepted despite our shortcomings is unspeakable joy.
The true church offers more than fellowship with people; it provides a fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God promises even more – a fellowship that extends into eternity, lasting forever. And that is why Christians can joyfully sing – “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms.” Since we are made for fellowship with each other, and with God, we should be careful to cherish it – and to invite others to share it with us. + + +