Sunday, December 15, 2013

For each other

As Paul's first stint in the Roman prison nears its end, the message I hear is 'We're in this together.'  Every church aims for stirring that sentiment up...fellowship dinners, social gatherings and even the work of 'programs' hope to draw hearts together.  But the heart fellowship of Christianity is not just about doing, its essence is unity based on valuing others above self.  The sufferings and the joys within the Christian family are meant to be felt, shared and sacrificially responded to. In such unified fellowship, everything suddenly takes on new depth and new meaning.  If your suffering is for me and my suffering is for you, there is purpose that both humbles and strengthens.  If my joys are not just mine but yours as well, a deeper richness of life emerges.  Jesus Christ laid everything down for us...our Christian walk is to have that same flavor!

Recently, Atheist mega-churches have begun forming to provide a place for 'good works' and social fellowship.  The stated desire of atheists is to show that non-believers are capable of creating communities of kindness and caring.  I have no doubt they will do well at their endeavor.  They do not understand Christian fellowship, though.  Social gatherings and good works are not sacrificial, other-first activities.  They simply 'feel good' and have no other foundation that that.  Doing good when it is convenient and feels good is naturally easy; living sacrificially to benefit others always is supernatural. Paul said dying would end his suffering and allow him to be with the Beloved...but that staying alive was better for the faith of others.  Christian fellowship, Christian unity, says you are more important than me--and it is not created by good works.

One translation of Philippians 2:12 admonishes us to cultivate our salvation and remember it is God who is at work in our lives.  'Cultivating our salvation' is, in part, walking through life without complaining and whining because God is in control.  Christians are never subject to chance or luck; God orchestrates the life of those who loves and seeks the face of Jesus.  Much of the New Testament was written by Paul while he sat in prison--his chains truly continue to bear fruit for those who feast on his writings.  The good of others is to be our concern...and our good is to be theirs.  That is Christian fellowship!  Whether our lives 'give' us blessing or difficulty, we can trust that the glory of God can be seen and encourage others--if we choose to point to Him. 

May we each find hope today in the fact that God is working in our lives. That hope includes confident assurance that His work produces a harvest we can never produce on our own. 

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