When the Fellowship Looks Like a Mess

A few years ago a friend of mine from childhood called me up. She’d seen on Facebook that Karen and I had seen Kenny Chesney at the Houston rodeo. She said, “You didn’t know this but my husband plays bass for Kenny.” Being a Kenny Chesney fan, I spent the next half-hour asking more about Chesney than what was going on in her life. That’s what you do when you encounter someone who has had an encounter with someone you would like to meet.

That’s what you do if you would like to know someone who is not present. You ask their friend who is. So if you want to know Jesus get to know John. He’s been with him. And he wants you to be with him too. In the first chapter of 1 John we read: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…”

John and others have walked with Jesus. Jesus’ life was made “manifest.” The word means “to make visible and known that which was hidden or unknown.” John is not about to give us some lofty, spiritual, code language that only the spiritual elite can figure out. He’s going to give us something down to earth that we can experience ourselves.

Then he tells us why he is proclaiming what he has known of Jesus: “… so that you too may have fellowship with us…” We have fellowship with “us.” John is referring to himself and others who have believed. He’s talking about the church. The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia which means “to have in common, to share, to be a joint participant, a partner with someone else.”

So koinonia is a sharing of life. John uses words of affection and relationship in his letter: little children, God’s children, beloved, brothers/sisters, fathers and children. These words give you a warm feeling.

But that may not have been your church experience. People often seem surprised when they find that the church is not perfect. But it did not surprise John. He sees in this fellowship problems too. It is a mess. He describes their behavior with words and phrases like: lie and liar, hate, child of the devil, and one who commits sin. He says some refused to love, had self-deceit and refused to help someone in need.

This is what fellowship is like. It’s messy. This fellowship is made up of people who are sinners. But they are people who acknowledge they are sinners. They come together to find out they are not all bad. But they remember they are not all good either. It’s a place you can learn to love others. And don’t forget it’s good to learn that others are having to learn to love you too.

We learn that by participating in another fellowship: “…and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” This is the only perfect fellowship you will find. Other’s aren’t. So there is no need to change churches. No need to jump to the next start-up. No church will follow a vision perfectly or a mission statement without mistakes. No church is perfect, and, if there were one, you and I would mess it up if we joined.

But the Father and the Son (and Spirit) have a perfect fellowship. We learn fellowship with “us” by experiencing fellowship with “them.”

That’s what this “last-living-one-of-the-Twelve-pushing-100-years-old” John would want for Jesus’ disciples today. He told the stories for years then wrote them down to last years after he was gone.

His words are still speaking today. He’s telling us what it is like to be with his friend Jesus. Listen well and you might find the fellowship you’ve been looking for.

Question: In what ways are you aware that you might love the church more? In what ways might you need to become more aware that people in the church are also learning to love you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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