The communion of fellowship in the Kingdom of God works in two directions: inward toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, and outward in a greater and more meaningful relationship with the members of the Body of Christ around us.
When we are brought to the table of fellowship we are seated with brothers and sisters in a way that we have not experienced before. This may be uncomfortable at first. But we should understand that each of these new directions depend on one another. Our new relationship with Christ makes it possible to come into a new relationship with His Body. This new relationship with the Body facilitates closer relationship with Christ.
It’s not always pretty, and it doesn’t always feel good. That’s why a number of us try to go it alone: “It’s just me and Jesus”. But it doesn’t work that way. It can’t work that way! Once one of my cells decides that it won’t put up with the rest of my body anymore, and jumps ship – it’s all over for that little particle. As soon as it detaches, it ends up dead! It’s just the same with the Body of Christ. Our connection with the rest of the body is as important as our connection to Jesus. Each plays a different role, of course, but each is just as vital.
In the work of planting communities over the past twenty-plus years, I have become dissatisfied with the casual approach to relationship that we tend to take as post-modern Christians. It comes across as kind of a “partake-if-you-want-to”, or a “care-if-you-want-to” approach to community. I have seen a lot of that kind of approach, and I can say that there is just not a lot of fruit that comes from it. Living, working and loving one another in the context of Community, it doesn’t take long to see that it takes more heart, more vigor, more — dare I say it? – commitment to one another to make it work. Commitment is a hot-potato concept these days. However, now, more than ever before, the concept of covenant in the context of community is increasingly critical.
But just what is covenant community? Our best model comes from within the Godhead itself. “God has called us into communion life in Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:9). This communion has been ‘revealed to us’ by the Son as being the very divine life of God enjoyed within the Trinity. What is this life revealed to us? John makes it clear that the communion of life that each Member enjoys is the same as the communion which is within the divine life itself, the very life of the Trinity. This life is the joy of love shared within a community of committed relationships. This life is not a reality remote from us, but one that has been ‘seen and ‘testified to’ by the apostles and their followers: “…so that you also may have communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”. Jesus brings us into covenant communion with Himself, in part, in order to bring us into covenant communion with the Body of Christ!
When we are brought to the Table of Fellowship we are drawn into a deeper relationship with the others in the body around us whether we like it or not. There are pitfalls to any relationship, especially relationships with fallen men and women. But God intends it for our good. The Body of Christ is where God intends for us to be sharpened “like iron against iron”, becoming truer disciples in the context of loving accountability. It is really only in the context of community where we begin to learn what our gifts are, and how we can use them. It is really only in the context of covenant relationship that we can find the strength of committed love and honesty – to finally walk out from the shadows of our most entrenched darkness.
It is only in relationship with others that we can see the face of Jesus – through all of the tears and the joy. Just writing this makes me miss those dear heart-friends whose caring, wisdom and strength have made it sheer joy to walk together in love over many years. Only those of us who have hung in there for each other over time know the miraculous depths of heart fellowship that Christ intends to be the very sinew that holds His body together. These are truly bonds of love. It is a joy and an honor to love the members of the body of Christ in deep, meaningful covenant relationship.