Rejoicing in Unity of Fellowship
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).
I love the Amplified version of verse 5: “And this is the message [the message of promise] which we have heard from Him and now are reporting to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all [no, not in any way].”
Yesterday we looked at the fact that the first thing we are called to do in completing what is lacking in the affliction of Christ is continuing His work of bearing witness concerning the truth of God, who He is and the way He is that is recognizable in and through us. He is Light, righteousness, goodness, truth, love, etc. There is no falsehood or darkness in Him. And as we grow in understanding of who He is and in our work of image bearing for His name’s sake, bearing witness of His Presence and work in our here and now lives, we enter into the second of our roll in filling up what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions: unity of fellowship.
There are two things about fellowship that I see to discuss today. For the first, let’s back up just a bit to verse 3: “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
The first insight I glean here is that our roll in completing what is lacking continues Christ’s work of building the church, the body of Christ. As we share how we experience God in our daily lives with those who do not believe, they have opportunity to join in fellowship with us by receiving our testimony and choosing the grace we walk in for themselves. That one is simple and clear. But there is a second aspect to this thought that I want to focus on. I will try to stay off my soapbox with this one.
The Amplified version of verse three adds to our discussion: “What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”
Our greatest call in adding to the fellowship of Christ’s afflictions is in the area of building unity within the body of Christ that gives proof of the distinguishing mark of our kinship. I’ll tell you, people, we are not there yet. We are divided, not by religious differences, but by pride and arrogance stemming from those differences. I hate when I hear someone standing behind the pulpit speaking divisive words against another denomination. Next to that, I hate when I hear God’s people setting around in public places, putting down other Christians. And most of all, I hate when I hear such slipping out of my own mouth. That is not fulfilling this call of Christ in completing this work of unity. So what does scripture teach us with regard to faith issues that we too often state in divisive arrogance?
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:1-4).
We grow strong of faith at differing paces. Some have faith as Paul did to shake off snakes and eat without fear. Others are not at that place in their walk. Some practice their freedom within the confines of their religious practices. Others seek the freedom of following the Spirit’s lead in ways that seem to have no bounds of religious tradition. But what I have observed in both is deep faith in those who remain bound by religion, and traditions of a different kind forming boundaries in the practices of those who appear bolder in their faith.
Those who are not as bold are not to judge the heart of those who are. And those who are bold are not to condemn those who appear of weaker faith. To do so in any setting is to aid the enemy of God in dividing the house of God. Instead we are to accept one another and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And as we do, we will be able to share with one another out of love, bearing testimony of our individual experience of our living God in ways that help each to grow stronger and bring the body of Christ to the unity He desires. This is our calling and equipping in filling up the lack.
And, just FYI here, for those who may be arrogant against Israel, including those who do not recognize the Christ in Jesus the Messiah, remember this:
“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:17-22).
And the second point in fulfilling this call to fellowship is “[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]” (vs. 6, AMP).
Sin destroys our unity with God, bringing separation from fellowship with Him and destroying our ability to find unity with the brotherhood of Christ. We cannot walk in darkness and have fellowship in His Light.
“But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]” (vs. 7, AMP).
When we walk in disunity, dividing ourselves up because of faith differences, which is clear sign that we walk in sin against God and one another, in our sin we do harm to the kingdom of God and our witness in the earth. Freedom in Christ requires us to trust in God who is able to make each of us stand firm as His beloved servant and fellow believer. And trusting that fact for each other, we walk in unity of our faith in Christ, trusting His work in growing all to the glory of His name.
Instead of judging one another and condemning each other, which is sin that destroys fellowship with God and each other, we must love one another, accepting each other in the degree of faith that we have. We cannot encourage one another and help each other in spiritual growth and maturity while condemning each other.
Unity of fellowship requires that instead of looking at one another and judging our differences in belief systems that stem from our faith in Him, that we look to see the image of Christ that is present. If we see Christ, the image of God born forth in the life of others, bearing fruit of His character and likeness, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and are called by Him to unity not hindered by differences in faith practices. In this way we complete the work began by Christ in bridging the gap between us and God, and between one to another.
Great rejoicing comes to those who can stand as one in Christ, despite differing beliefs. That rejoicing is increased as we learn not only to accept one another where we are in our faith walk, but as we work to encourage one another and grow stronger together in Him.