The Bible reveals that the one God is expressed in three forms, rather like (to put it very simplistically), H20 can be found as water, steam or ice. 1000 years ago, Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury wrote 'God is within Himself a sweet society'. The triune Godhead is a living, loving, productive community. We, being made in His image, are also made for fellowship; and without it, we feel a deep sense of loss.
For this reason, one of the rhythms the Spirit will want to build into our lives in order to develop our experience of divine rest is a regular experience of life-giving community.
The good news of the Gospel is that there is not only healing for our separation from God, but also for our separation from other people. The greatest divide in Jesus’ day was between Jew and Gentile. On the cross Jesus bridged that gap for ever [Ephesians 2:11-22], bringing both groups near to the Father—and therefore to each other—by His shed blood. And every other separation has been spanned in the same way; the walls which separate us from our fellows have been demolished.
The Gospel is all about grace; the unmerited favour of God. We have that favour because we have been forgiven for all of our shortcomings [see MISSING THE MARK]; and if I am forgiven everything, how can I not forgive those who have wronged me? (Remember the Lord’s Prayer?) How can I hate, despise or resent others when I have received so much grace? How can I be bitter when I am so loved? How can I be irritated at my neighbour’s weaknesses when my own shortfall has been blotted out by Jesus?
We may not be able to change other people’s actions, but we can change our own—by His enabling. And it’s amazing that when grace starts to flow from us towards those we have issues with, we often see a change in them too.
[It is important to say here that there’s a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and we need to use godly wisdom—I might forgive a fraudster, for example, but I won’t give him access to my finances, without being sure there has been true repentance, and a period of re-training and accountability in integrity.]
KOINONIA UNDER THREAT
Today koinonia in the community of believers is frequently submerged under the demands of church programmes and practices. Practical, emotional and spiritual support were features of the shared life demonstrated in the early church, but there are many in present-day congregations who are lonely, or crying out to be 'seen'. 'Fellowship' can so often be reduced to a quick hug on a Sunday morning.
Meditate over the following possibilities with the Holy Spirit. We are meant to live from inside-out, rather than from outside rules and checklists; so ask Him to cause the response that is appropriate to you to rise up from within.
Start with family: Find the good and celebrate it: even in the awkward toddler, the surly teenager, the difficult father-in-law, the neglectful partner. The Bible is full of promises for families, seek them out and pray them over your household. Punctuate life with celebrations. Make happy memories to provide a bed-rock for later life. And if your family is far away—use video calls, write letters and emails, send photos, cards, or words of encouragement. And above all, pray!
Be 'family' to others: Adopt lonely people. A recent survey from Relate found that 1 in 10 people are lonely, and 1 in 5 feel unloved. (To put it in real terms, in a village of 300, there are 30 lonely people, in a town of 40,000 there are 4,000!) That means someone in your neighbourhood needs you! An elderly neighbour, a single mother, a resident in a care home…
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