Messy Fellowship

Ephesians 4:2-3

With all humility, and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The soldiers, each believing they’re fighting for a noble cause, are engaged in trench warfare. It’s Christmas Eve, and the war begins taking its toll on these young men who are missing their families, while engaging with a faceless enemy. Mud is spattered, they’re in freezing temps, and their eyes are bleary. They wish to be home for Christmas. Yet on this night, despite the bloodshed experienced on both sides, the men are joyful and celebratory, in honor of Christ’s birth.

Soon, the sound of Christmas carols from the opposing trenches can be heard. Not to be outdone, the soldiers engage in Christmas carols of their own, in their native tongue. Two enemies, singing together Christmas carols, in opposing trenches. Then the unthinkable happens: soldiers from the opposing side start venturing out into “No Man’s Land,” the area between the two trenches that was sure to lead to fatality. These enemies, each on separate warring military forces and ideology, met in the middle between their sides, and sang carols, exchanged food and souvenirs, and played football together. This event would go down in history as the Christmas Truce of 1914, taking place during World War I, between warring countries. In that moment, for those hours, not to be repeated again, there was peace and good will toward men in the midst of the Great War.

Jesus is vastly concerned with unity and peace. In His final hours, in His time with His Father, His concern was about unity. In John 17, Jesus asks the Father, in praying for us, that we “may all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in You.” If Jesus is concerned with unity, how much so shall we be?

Let’s look at Jesus’ “Fellowship Group” in heaven. Remember, His prayer in John 17 was that we be as one, to mirror His Trinitarian relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit. So His expectations for us were that of a deep love and fellowship to mirror what exists between the Godhead.

Now let’s look at Jesus’ “Fellowship Group” on earth. His prayer revealed that the purpose of our unity on earth is to mirror the heavenly Fellowship Group. It is so that the world can see us, and see Christ. But what kind of people were in His earthly small group?

Well on one side there’s Matthew, the vile tax collector whose allegiance to Rome was trumped by his newfound allegiance to Christ. Tax collectors were the worst of the worst in Jesus’ day. He was a Jew who collected tax from his own people. Trusted by the Roman authorities as their pawn, but hated by his Jewish brethren.

On the other side there’s Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were the conservative extremists of their day. Think modern day radicals and terrorists. The Zealots believed that the way to overthrow Rome was through violence, and they were zealous to provide it. There was no one Zealots hated more than the tax collectors.

Jesus wasn’t content on these two polar political opposites to just tolerate each other without coming to blows, or be in the same room. He was saying that their love for each other would display such an amazing unity that the world would take notice of their love for each other and for Christ. For Christ, mere toleration isn’t enough. Being in the same small group isn’t enough. It’s being one. Christ provided what was necessary to break the walls of hostility down so that you and I can be brothers. He provided sufficient means that enemies of God could become sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. You are saved to be in a fellowship of believers, not a church of individuals.

You were created by a God existing in fellowship within Himself, to be in fellowship that can only take place through the reconciliation brought by the cross. To you who consider yourself part of the CityLights family, keep pressing on in building fellowship and unity within the church through your Fellowship Group and the ministries you are a part of. To those who consider yourself part of the CityLights family, be eager to maintain the unity. Join a Fellowship Group, start serving in a ministry.