Sunday, July 03, 2022

Promoting Fellowship

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.”

Over four hundred years later the risen Christ asked two of his followers, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other?” It is a question we sometimes need to ask ourselves.

We show fellowship with other believers by offering hospitality, providing physical assistance and sharing financially. Such things give evidence of the genuineness of our love and care. However it is only how we speak when with them that shows whether we know the joy to be found in conversational fellowship.

Speech That Attracts

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah’s physical appearance would not be what would draw people to him; he was to have “no form or majesty ... no beauty that we should desire him”. No, it was the Lord’s words that attracted those who hungered for truth. His words were like apples of gold in a setting of silver and like a gold ring or an ornament of gold — always fitly spoken. He was “a wise reprover to a listening ear”. This was true whether the one with ears to hear was a Nicodemus looking for instruction, a Peter requiring correction, or a penitent woman bathing his feet with her tears; his words were always apt.

I am not suggesting we will be able to come close to that level of perfection, but true conversational fellowship between two believers is of the same order. It is spiritually attractive in the same way, lifting the spirits of both in a manner not known among the lost. It offers a deeper, sweeter, purer, more rewarding socializing than can be known in any human society, even that which can be experienced by those in the same physical family. It is a foretaste of heaven. The bonds of love to which it gives expression are eternal. It is supernatural thing, a coming together, a meeting of spirits, known among those whose tastes in other ways may be quite different. It is the result of our being united to “him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” and our being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, thus becoming members of one body.

How is it that we know so little of the working out of Christian fellowship in our speech? So often we are not ourselves, our true selves, but act as though we are still what we once were — that is, before that wonderful change came about and Christ became our life!

Cluttered Air Lines

Fellowship is not “Christian” simply because Christians are talking to each other. Most, if not all, readers of this article are mature enough to keep clear of gossip. But even though we refrain from harmful speech, we may still forfeit opportunities for a much richer experience.

That happens when we fill the time we have with each other with what goes on in the schoolyard, on campus, in our place of employment, in parliament or in the world. The same kind of conversation is common among the lost. It rises no higher and does not resemble the fellowship of scripture. It is not necessarily evil but it does not edify. When you part from your Christian friend you are not left longing for more of the same.

Trivial Words

We are not suggesting that all conversation that deals with what might be called trivia is to be avoided. Even though such things are not of eternal value they can be used to promote right thinking. Comments about the weather may be of little consequence, but important lessons can be learned from it. Jesus said, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west ... you say a shower is coming ... you can discern the face of the sky ... why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” Incidentally, we cannot imagine the Son of God complaining about the weather, can we? Instead, he used the sun and the rain to teach that God is kind even towards those choosing to be his enemies. Bringing the Creator into the picture moves things on to higher ground.

I once heard a young Christian complaining about the rain. The lady to whom he spoke replied graciously but with conviction, “But God sent it, didn’t he?” My wife was once invited to a reunion of old school friends. Many of them had not had contact with the others for years. You can imagine the level of conversation. Then one of them was brave enough so share how she was saved. Immediately the tone of things changed. It turned out that many had experienced God’s grace and spoke well of the Savior. Joan came home walking on air. Heaven had come down to earth and glory had filled their souls!

Filled With the Spirit

The apostle James has much to say about the need to discipline our wayward tongues. But the mouth’s outflow is best regulated by the heart’s inflow. If we live according to that principle it will enable us to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual! “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” What we are advocating will not be the outcome of merely following rules that restrict and constrict. Nothing will be stilted or stiff in our speech if it is our habit to drink from the pure stream of God’s word. Instead, we will find ourselves happily sharing from our little cup that which will provoke us and our friends to live closer to the spring. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt.”

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.”

(Robert Robinson)

— Colin Anderson, “Words that Promote Fellowship”, June 2013

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