"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 is an affirmation of how the biblical David delighted in the company of his brothers. As a social species, humans need the fellowship of others. Through fellowship, we witness to and live out our faith; it is where we receive mutual support because we all depend on others in one way or another for material, emotional and spiritual support.
Fellowship, the opportunity to share life with others, is a gift from God. From birth, we seek acceptance from others and we depend upon the loving care of family. Sibling relationships and friendships encourage and guide us, making our lives easier, especially in those difficult moments we all must face.
Living in fellowship is God’s gift to us.
We were created as social beings to share with others; this is part of God’s plan for us – and God’s plans are good and perfect.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God’s plans for us are to prosper us and not to harm us. We can realize that living with others produces many benefits that we ignore and therefore sometimes we work against ourselves and others.
Research has proved that fellowship is good for our physical and mental health just as Ecclesiastes illustrates in chapter 4:9-12: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to the one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
In another example, when Jacob met Esau again after a lengthy separation due to their differences, his face displayed his joy of knowing that they could count on one another and he said: “... truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God” (Genesis 33:10). This anecdote is evidence that being able to count on one another is a gift from God.
According to the Apostle, Paul, this is a Christian obligation: Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and share what you have” … Sharing is an indispensable characteristic of living with or in fellowship and implicates other people with different ways of doing so.
We need to understand that as children of God, we are predestined to live well and we must do so while interacting with everyone else – in communion. This lifestyle that includes relationships with other people happens in a special way that overcomes all the barriers that can come between us. The Holy Spirit manifested powerfully during Pentecost when people were together in unity (Acts 2:1-2).
In the book of Mark 2:1-12 we find the story of the paralyzed man who benefited due to the efforts of friends, neighbours, siblings (I don’t know; there aren’t a lot of details). There were many barriers they faced, among them the great crowd that blocked the way, and they had to carry him.
We can identify the characteristics of these people (the paralytic’s friends) that enable effective fellowship – love, service, unity, empathy, kindness, patience and faith – without which it would not have been possible to attain the final victory for this man.
Throughout the Bible there are stories that help us identify the advantages of learning to practice healthy fellowship with others: the beautiful friendship between David and Jonathan; or Mary, Martha and Lazarus with Jesus.
It is important to note that time spent with friends, conversing about our projects, creates emotional bonds; improves our self-esteem; releases stress; is therapeutic. We laugh and this produces positive reactions within our body, we share our concerns which lightens the load, and people enjoy being sociable creating healthier lifestyles as a result.
It is important to highlight that we build life through life-giving messages and actions. A positive attitude makes us likeable, sought after, followed.
If we want to be peacemakers, a positive attitude should be part of our daily lifestyle. Our world needs these peacebuilding actions that create healthy fellowship, tolerance and solidarity. We need to commit ourselves to doing good, to the divine project of love and at times give more than is expected of us. As children of God, we must make manifest the divine plan of abundant life, seeing the face of God in the face of our neighbour.
These characteristics have to do with harmonious relationships, mutual support, sharing time, laughter, agreement and even disagreement. That is life.
What is the key to living this way? Approach others with empathy, love, solidarity, willingness and faith. It will always be necessary to know how much life we have to offer others, how connected we are to the well of life so that we can definitely transmit it to others.
—Adriana Belinda Rodriguez Velasquez is a psychologist, counsellor, wife and grandmother, and a member of MWC’s Peace Commission. She is a member of Caminando con Dios, part of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña.