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Thursday, August 26, 2010

By Faith We Are Saved Unto Love

Fellowship is one of the greatest gifts we have been given in this body of faith.  There is something so fulfilling, so exemplary, in a body of believers that takes fellowship seriously.  In our Post-Modern context there is renewed vigor and emphasis on experiencing and participating with each other in a communal faith.  Praise God for this resurgence of biblical truth that, while not lost, was deemphasized to practical impotence during Modernism's individualism.  I praise God that the last two churches I have had the blessing of being members in, both of which I consider my homes, have in various ways placed a particular emphasis on engaging each other as a community of believers.  I want to see this more and more over the course of my life.  I want to see the American church become a Philippian type of church (praise God to see the whole catholic church defined as such), one praised for its corporate generosity to the cause of Christ and the safeguarding and care-taking of it's own and others.  While charity and generosity are not my focus here, they are springs from the well of a community minded body of believers both informed by the knowledge and mind of God and fueled by the passion and heart of Christ.

At the core of any community, any communion of the saints, there must be an intimate fellowship.  The scriptures make in unmistakable that we are in this faith together.  "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5.11).  "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13.11).  "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6.2).  "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4.8).  "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3.15).  Even a quick scattered search through the scriptures can bring forth a multitude of verses and commands and admonishments to live this life together, from which the above verses are a small example.

This fellowship we are called to must be wholehearted devotion to one another rooted in the love, example, and life of Christ.  We are called to be united with one another because of our bond in Christ.  We are no longer strangers to one another, but to any and all that have been washed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we are now spiritual family.  This bond can be one of the purest, richest, and strongest bonds in the world when it is rooted in the grace of Christ.  Where there has been a trespass among us, we have been forgiven a greater trespass against Christ, so we are called to imitate Christ.  Where there is a want of love among us, we have been loved perfectly and proactively by Christ, so we are called to imitate Christ.  Where there is a need for comfort, encouragement, rebuke, correction, edification, all of these have been exemplified by Christ, and we are called to imitate Him.

Fellowship is more than just hanging out with one another, enjoying each others company.  This may be a part of what happens with fellowship, but this cannot be the end because even the world can do that.  The end must in every way and for all time be Christ.  A church where believers spur each other on to be more like Christ is a beautiful church.  A church where believer's actively participate in each others lives is a beautiful church.  In short, to the extent that fellowship encourages the participants to holiness and delighting in Christ alone, fellowship is true.  To the extent fellowship glorifies and exalts the members of the body, fellowship is idolatry.  In all things Christ is to unequivocally be the focal point.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love...Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.  I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. - 2 Peter 1.5-7, 12-15
This was the text that jumped out at me as I was reading a few nights ago.  Peter, the great shepherd during the infancy of our Holy Church, encouraged his flock time and time again reminding them of the qualities necessary to grow in Godliness.  He had such a desire to see his flock grow, that he wanted these qualities to be ingrained into the core of their being.  The qualities themselves can take a study of their own, but we see a beautiful tapestry forming that should define the whole of a Christian's life, even at a quick glance.  Love is the culmination of the quality, and faith is the beginning of the qualities.  This is the story of redemption; by faith we are saved unto love.

While I know that this was the pastor's heart in action, I propose it should be the believer's heart in action for their brothers and sisters.  We should want to see one another grow in grace and should always desire to stir one another up.  Our time on this earth is limited and we know not the hour, nor the day of our departure so this desire should press it's importance and should have an imminent urgency in our dealings with one another.  Building up and reminding each other of these qualities should be the backbone of our fellowship with one another as we strive to help each other, and allow ourselves to be helped, to grow closer and closer to the image of Christ.

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