“If we walk in the Light as He is in the Light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I John 1:7
What mental picture comes to your mind when you read the word “fellowship”?
Perhaps it’s a happy gathering of people, chatting and laughing together…and likely involving copious amounts of food.
And that’s all well and good. Enjoyable, even.
But what if there’s more?
Lest you be unduly impressed with me or unnecessarily overwhelmed by today’s topic, please let me preface it by saying that I’m no Greek scholar; I simply searched out a few things from Wikipedia and BibleStudyTools.com today.
Fellowship in the Greek is koinonia (pronounced coy-nuh-NEE-ya), a word loaded with richness of meaning. It involves joint participation. Sharing. Intimacy.
All too often, I’m afraid our fellowship stays at the surface instead of plunging to the depths.
I’m probably one of the worst offenders. An introvert through and through, I’m never the life of the party. Or the popular girl. And I mostly like it that way, since I prefer solitude to social interaction.
But this aspect of my personality tends to make me reserved. It’s pretty hard to get to know me — the real me.
And this ought not be so.
God has been teaching me over the past few years about the vast treasure of true fellowship.
Letting people get close isn’t easy. They see your mistakes and your bad days and your sins and your tears and your heartaches in a very up-close-and-personal kind of way.
But it’s precisely this kind of intimacy that sharpens. That heals. That comforts. That teaches. That binds.
So how do we develop this closeness? God’s Word gives us two important prerequisites to koinonia with each other.
The first is koinonia with God. If we back up a few verses from our main verse above, John 1:3 tells us that John’s testimony is given so the reader can have koinonia with him, “and truly, our koinonia is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The essence of koinonia is sharing an experience together, and for a Christ-follower, no experience is more significant than koinonia with his God. This then becomes the foundation for our intimacy with others who share the same faith.
But a shared experience of koinonia with God isn’t necessarily enough to produce the deepest levels of koinonia with others. The kind that involves intimacy. To foster this aspect of koinonia, the Bible tells us that we must “walk in the Light” (I John 1:7).
There’s an element of purity here; those walking in known sin are more likely to shun close fellowship with others so that their sin may remain hidden. If you’ve been hanging on to unconfessed sin, your koinonia with God and with others is broken.
But walking in the Light also implies a sense of openness… of an intentional effort to hide nothing —
no flaw, no quirk, no abnormality…
no burden, no weakness, no sin.
When we’re engaging in koinonia with others, we shield them from nothing.
And we don’t flinch when they don’t shield us, either.
What keeps us from this kind of openness? I like to say it’s my personality…”just the way God made me.” Or my reserved nature. Or my complete contentment with God and my family. Or maybe even a desire to be cautious with my heart, guarding it from the rejection that can come when we engage in closeness with others. After all, if I don’t get close to anyone, I can’t get hurt, right?
But let’s wipe the lipstick off that pig, shall we? Because what it really boils down to is pride.
More often than not, our social insecurities are rooted in pride. It means I’m nervously worrying what others think about me, rather than confidently acknowledging God’s acceptance of me.
Beyond that, our social insecurities are signs of selfishness. Because I’m more interested in protecting myself and my own interests, than I am in engaging in the depth of fellowship that brings mutual spiritual benefits.
Spiritual maturity welcomes the accountability and building up in the faith that results from intimacy of fellowship with like-minded Christ-followers. It also embraces the opportunity to exhort those newer or weaker in the faith by humbly sharing with them from our own life experience.
By God’s grace, I’m seeking to overcome the pride and selfishness that hold me back from koinonia with other believers. And I’m supremely grateful for those friends who have made doing so a true joy.
Though I suspect I’ll still never be the life of the party.
Written by Jennifer Clarke