Monday, November 29, 2010
It's Not Coffee Talk
Most every church has one: a large room or meeting place where you can get coffee between services, chat with friends, and occasionally eye a visitor nervously sipping their coffee or tea. Receptions and meals are often held in these rooms. Generally, what we call “Fellowship Hall” is usually a place for fleeting conversations and passing nods.
Or we’ll have small groups meetings in classrooms or homes and we’ll designate a time for “fellowship,” defined by post-Bible study activity consisting of refreshments, desserts and more light conversation.
We might need to find a better word or phrase like “social time.” The bible uses the words translated as “fellowship” to mean a very different kind of activity, situation or condition. There are some 15 references to words translated as fellowship in the New Testament; two in the Old Testament are translated as “fellowship” in the King James Version but not in newer translations like the New International Version.
All of these words and references define something far more serious than coffee talk.
Collectively, the references in Acts and the epistles of Paul and John cite fellowship as a communion, as a joining or partaking with.
It is a sharing that is service to fellow believers.
It is a sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
It is a sharing with the Father and the Son and the Spirit.
It is a partnership in the gospel.
It is both an action and a condition.
John proclaims what he has seen and heard so that “you may have fellowship with is,” and he’s not talking about dining together or a conversation over coffee.
To have it, we must “walk in the light and not darkness,” and it is a binding relationship, to the point that we cannot have fellowship with those who don’t believe. Fellowship is something just for us, and it’s special, serious and unique.
It is also something we hunger for. It is food and drink only in the sense of being the spiritual nourishment we need.
Fellowship may be more akin to what Jesus had with the “good thief” on the cross on Golgotha than anything we define it as today.
To see other posts on fellowship, please visit the One Word Blog Carnival over at Bridget Chumbley’s place. The links will be live at 9:30 central time tonight.
Photograph: Three Crosses by Barb Ver Sluis via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.