The Novel Corona virus (COVID-19) has impacted the world so much, in ways we have not yet fully seen. The human civilization is teetering on the precipice of an unprecedented re-shaping while human conduct is being re-molded to fit the new “normal”. Front liners, home quarantine, proper social distancing, lockdown, hard lockdown, extended community quarantine – these are examples of words that we need to fit into our new reality.
All over the world, church gatherings are being suspended in order to slow down or to prevent local transmission of the virus. But it should not limit a believer’s capability to have fellowship with other believers. Where one door is shut, a whole rooftop is sometimes being opened. It is with these thoughts that I want to explore the Biblical concept of fellowship during this time of corona virus quarantine.
In Acts 2:42, we find this text: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”.
The meaning of Fellowship
In my mind, the word fellowship invokes a great gathering of noble kings and princes and gallant knights and valiant warriors – all together for a common purpose, a common vision, a common dream: to fight, defend, and extend the borders of the kingdom.
Times have changed. Gone were the royal splendor of kings and mighty princes; nowhere is the gallant knight; valiant warriors are no more. The blended romance of chivalry and idealism is dead and all that is left is just a memory.
So, what is fellowship? The Greek word that corresponds nearest to the intended meaning is “koinonia” (feminine gender). The transliterated words are “intimate companionship”, “gathering” or “communion”. Going back to the fourth paragraph, as I described the images that comes to my mind when I hear the word fellowship, the Greek word that corresponds to these images is “koinonos” (masculine gender).
Furthermore, I think the differences between gathering and communion is huge. You see, different-minded people with different goals can gather together and may reach a consensus; but such gathering has no sense of brotherhood or intimacy. On the other hand, only like-minded people – bounded by the same purpose, the same dream, and stirred by the same belief – can experience intimate communion.
From the beginning God’s original plan is to have fellowship with man. But this plan was altered and re-made by sin. God, in the abundance of His mercy and grace, paid the price that His own law exacts to undo the effects of sin.
God instituted the law to guide man. Man broke the law. The law says that man as a lawbreaker must die and be separated from God. But God loved man. So God paid the penalty of His own rules and died in man’s place. Man has now access once again to God. John 3:16 capsulizes this puzzling logic. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life”.
From the Garden of Eden with our biological ancestors – Adam and Eve – to the post-flood days of Noah, to the time of the Patriarchs, to the rule of the Judges, to the days of the Kings and temple worship, up to the present, God clearly desires to have fellowship with man. We are likewise exhorted to have fellowship with one another.
The need to Fellowship
Every believer needs to fellowship. The church is a body of believers. Believers are like charcoals. A charcoal that is in contact with other charcoals in the pile essentially gets warm and by its purpose will become an ember – exuding heat and sometimes, in a sudden outburst of inspiration, blazes with smoke and flame. If the inspiration is divine (from God) it will remain and the embers will burn incessantly and the flames cannot be extinguished. Now, if one charcoal is taken out of the pile and gets separated from the rest, that charcoal cannot sustain its warmth: its embers will die down and soon it becomes cold, unable to continue in its purpose.
Today, even in the face of the Novel Corona virus challenge, we must remain vigilant and be consciously aware so that we will not be lulled into a false sense of complacency. There are virtual Sunday Services or Friday services (whatever works, I guess), online group Bible studies, and live midweek devotionals and prayer meetings broadcasted on Facebook and other social media platforms. Each activity is to imbue believers with a sense of being connected to one another in order to pique the interest and heighten the desire to grow in the faith and remain faithful – even in these challenging times.
Missing out church activity is like missing daily meals. A Christian who doesn’t eat regularly his spiritual food will become spiritually famished and weak. It hardens the heart, resulting to a stagnant and lukewarm relationship with God. And God doesn’t like it when we are lukewarm (Revelation 2:4-5). God is not happy either when we stop growing in the faith. In Romans 11:17-22, the Apostle Paul is making his theological argument with the Gentile believers (applicable to us). This is in conjunction with John 15:1-4 where Jesus was speaking to the Jewish believers.
The bottom line is that if we remain with God by spending more time with Him in terms of our daily devotional (Quiet Time, Prayer Time, etc.), it will greatly enhance our personal relationship with God. As we grow deeper and more intimate in our relationship with God (vertical), it will improve our horizontal relationships with our family and with other believers (with the body, with the church). Having these together, we will richly grow in the faith and will bear spiritual fruit. This is the promise for us and to all those who will believe the gospel.