So, the Lord has taken us by the hand and led us out of the death of the doldrums to life in the Spirit. We are on a journey to our father, to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. What is it like to be on the open seas? Life is ultimately about relationships.
Navigating relationships can be challenging, much like sailing on the open seas. There are times when the wind is on our back, and other times when it’s against us. There are towering waves that terrify us, and sunsets that warm our hearts. However, life is ultimately about relationships, and the Lord commands us that they (relationships) should be characterized by love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all we are, and the second is to love our neighbour as ourselves.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35–40 (NIVUK84)
In Luke 10:29, the expert in the law tried to wiggle his way out of this command by asking, “Who is my neighbour?” According to the Scriptures, there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who are children of God and those who are not. Therefore, we can only have two kinds of relationships: those characterized by fellowship and those characterized by witnessing. Both require commitments on our part but differ in approach. The goal in both relationships is to influence others to join us on the journey to God, to inspire them to love God.
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 (NIVUK84)
Fellowship tends to be thought of as the easier of the disciplines, but this is only because we reduce it to attending gatherings. When we understand that in essence, it is about relationships, everything changes. There are two verses that we usually focus on when talking about fellowship, first:
20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIVUK84)
The context of this verse is actually about reconciliation. Jesus teaches us that we should seek out our brothers and sisters when they are separated from us because of sin. Do you see it? What breaks relationships? Sin. How do we restore them? Through forgiveness. Is it easy? No! But if we are going to love our neighbour, we must seek to be reconciled when hurt and wronged.
The stakes could not be higher. When we are separated from our fellow sojourners, our fellowship with God is broken. But when we “come together in Christ’s name” and when we “agree,” He will answer our prayers, and Christ will be present in our midst.
That is the message in Matthew.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:6–7 (NIVUK84)
Our second verse on fellowship teaches us that our commitment is not just to forgive but also to invest in each other.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24–25 (NIVUK84)
“Consider how to spur on another”, “Encourage one another”. How do we do that?
14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NIVUK84)
There are three kinds of sojourners mentioned here: the idle, the timid, and the weak. The idle are those who know what to do but are choosing not to do it. Paul uses strong words to warn them and caution them against their way of living.
What if they are not idle, but timid, meaning that they know what to do but don’t feel they have the capacity to do it? What if they lack the courage? In that situation, a warning will be counterproductive. They need encouragement – someone to come alongside them and show them that it can be done, someone to believe in them.
What about the weak? They are the ones who, in reality, may not have the capacity to do what they ought. Warning such a person would be cruel. Encouraging them is futile. What they need is practical help and resources to increase their capacity so that they can do what needs to be done.
The wisdom here is to minister to each other according to our needs, to meet people where they are, and help them along on their journey. These are the kind of relationships that we are commanded to have.
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:18 (NIVUK84)
Author : Bethuel Bissem
Bethuel serves with The Navigators Kenya, Students ministry.