Free Hugs or Fellowship

I was thinking recently about this idea of "Free Hug" campaigns people set up in big cities. I think I understand the idea, at least in part. After all, we probably pass people all day, every day, who haven't been hugged in quite some time. It can be a beautiful thing to reach out and wrap your arms around a stranger, thereby giving them dignity and signifying they have worth.

But a free hug is no substitute for true fellowship. Fellowship between believers is not as simple as handing out a free hug to a stranger. Fellowship takes time, effort, inconvenience, and vulnerability in order to go from strangers to friends to brothers and sisters.

This past Tuesday, our women's Bible study started back up after breaking for the month of December. I hadn't realized how much I missed it--how I rely on this time each week to keep me grounded. Hearing 45 female voices singing about the "Man of sorrows, Lamb of God" was precious to my soul. Confessing sin and struggles to eight other transparent, vulnerable women was a freedom I had forgotten. 

As we plunged ourselves into John's gospel account, we talked in my small group about fellowship. In John's words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see a glimpse into the beauty of true fellowship. It's the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit, spilling over to humanity. Out of the joy of their fellowship, they made man and woman. Because of the work of the Trinity, men and women can have fellowship with God. And, in Christ, we have fellowship with one another. 

John gives his reason for testifying about the incarnate Christ in I John 1:3: "...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."

So today I'm just thankful for this amazing gift of fellowship, or "koinonia" in the Greek. This partnership and fellowship in the gospel is one of God's most precious gifts. As we bear His image, we reflect the beauty of the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our own fellowship with other believers. And we were created to do this.

I haven't always appreciated gospel fellowship (koinonia) in the way I do now. But now I see it.

  • I see it in a phone call with my sister-in-law about all the Lord is doing in her life, in her family, and in her neighborhood, to the praise of His glory.
  • I see it in a girls' night out that includes in-depth conversation about our pastor's latest sermon and the work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts
  • I see it in (very) late night conversations with a friend on the other side of the world, where limited time demands intentional words
  • I see it in gospel relationships with new friends online, and then the beauty of taking those relationships offline and getting real--face to face, heart to heart
  • I see it when family members confess sin openly, not desiring to cover things or save face
  • I see it when my own confessions are met with "me too," instead of silence or excuses on my behalf
  • I see it in my church community group when a member admits a struggle and asks for wisdom

And I miss it when I don't have it.

  • I miss it when I refuse to step out of my comfort zone and meet a stranger
  • I miss it when I substitute online friendships for flesh and blood ones
  • I miss it when I don't pick up the phone
  • I miss it when I try to save face, rather than admitting my struggles
  • I miss it when I make excuses for the sins of others, rather than pointing to the gracious love of Christ

Like so many things, once you've truly tasted fellowship with other believers, you just want more. So I look forward to the next coffee date, the next church service, the next Bible study, the next phone call. And I pray for strength to be vulnerable and honest, knowing this giving of myself fully to others is what Christ has called me to.

How are you enjoying or pursuing fellowship with other believers? What are some of the obstacles you've encountered in pursuing relationships in the Body?