I begin this letter by thanking you all for your fellowship during another year of service together. Linda and I are so grateful for the help and support that we received during 2011 and for the way we were so made a part of your lives. It is strange to think that it is still less than 2 years since we began our service together, because we have been so warmly welcomed. Although strangers prior to that our lives are now intricately interwoven. This explains something of the reality of Christian fellowship.
The hymn-writer captured something of Christian fellowship when he wrote,
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
It is something that is shared amongst Christians on a horizontal level, but it is also a relationship with God and essentially reflects the fellowship of our God. We worship one God who has existed in 3 persons throughout eternity and yet has never known any conflict or division. God has made himself known to us in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and if there is anything that summarised the fellowship in the Godhead, it is Christ’s words in Jn 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. Throughout His earthly life Christ worked to maintain His unity (fellowship) with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Although as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is both fully man and fully God at one and the same time, there are times when we can be guilty of thinking that Christ was somehow super-human, so it can help us when we see the same commitment in ‘normal’ human beings. We find a great example of fellowship in the Old Testament in the relationship between David and Jonathan.
Saul, Jonathan’s father on more than one occasion had threatened the life of David as a result of jealousy. This had resulted in David having to flee for his life and could have severed the relationship between David and Jonathan, but at a particularly difficult experience in life Jonathan made a difficult choice “and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” (1 Sam 23:16). That act of fellowship went against the demands of family relationship and was centred in God. We are not given details of what Jonathan said, but the fellowship strengthened David in that it reminded him of his position of God.
Christian fellowship therefore is not simply natural friendship, but a relationship that begins and ends in God. Also it is not self-centred, but rather is self-giving. Jonathan put himself at risk by going to David. We have no greater example of this than our Lord Jesus Christ. Since He is all-powerful and all-knowing it would seem that He could have found some other way to rescue humanity from the judgement of God, but He “became flesh and dwelt among us,” (Jn. 1:14). He entered into full-fellowship with humanity, by entering our world and experience.
It would seem that the fellowship that Jonathan shared with David was to have a lasting effect. Sometime later, shortly before Jonathan and his father died in battle and David knew the tragedy of seeing his home pillaged and fearing that his whole family had been kidnapped or murdered. His companions blamed David and threatened to stone him, but “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Sam 30:6) The fellowship that Jonathan had shared earlier still had the effect of encouraging and strengthening David at this time.
As we begin a new year together, let’s begin it with God and with each other, so that again at its end we will be able to look back thanking God for our fellowship with Him and with each other.
Your most grateful pastor,
Bernard Lewis January 2012