Persisting in Fellowship
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You can always tell a person’s commitment to something when you see how that person handles adversity. Many people want to make lots of money, but most can’t or won’t put in the time and sweat to honorably amass wealth. If I can get a free taco at the local restaurant, I might go check it out. However, if I have to wait in line for 3 hours to get the taco, I’m not really interested anymore. We can all relate to “new year’s resolutions” that we religiously decree each year. But when things get hard, we let those good intentions go to waste.
The same thing is true about fellowship in a local congregation. We love a local congregation when it is “easy” to be there. When we have all smiles and fun times, life is good, and we support the local congregation.
But then “it” happens. Someone looks at you the wrong way. Or doesn’t say hello to you to your satisfaction. Maybe the pastor/elder didn’t teach your pet doctrine. Or you “heard” something bad (gossip, anyone?). This is when we see who is really committed to the local congregation; when you have to work to maintain fellowship.
The community that should be experienced by people in a local congregation is not always going to be smooth. There will be bumps in the road because we are all fallen sinners in need of grace. Sure, sometimes people don’t do the right thing, but if anyone should be willing to extend grace it should be us because we are saved by the Lord’s grace.
Fellowship in the local congregation is just like relationships in a marriage; you will have ups and downs because marriage is a lot more than the honeymoon. But what keeps you together is that you are committed to your spouse. You have promised to love and edify your spouse. You have to work at being a good husband, or being a good wife.
If we decide to pull away from our brothers and sisters at the first problem, there won’t be much of a community left for Yeshua. One of the hallmarks of the “early church” was being “devoted to fellowship” (Acts 2:42). The word devoted means that we should “remain constant” in encouraging one another. That means sometimes we have to think about the other person and not just focus on our Western-centric “individual feelings.” We have to work at loving one another.
It means we want the gospel to win above all else.