Life is meant to be shared
The Bible calls this shared experience FELLOWSHIP. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sympathetic comforting, etc. Fellowship, unlike worship, is better achieved in a smaller group - maximum of about ten. Jesus ministered directly to twelve Disciples, He knew that in more a larger group someone would stop participating (usually the quietest person) and a few would dominate.
The Body of Christ is really a collection of these smaller groups within the church - home cells (fellowships), Sunday school class, Bible study, etc.
IN REAL FELLOWSHIP PEOPLE EXPERIENCE AUTHENTICITY
That means genuine heart to heart, gut-level sharing in honesty and humility; instead of pretending and role-playing with superficial politeness and shallow conversation - such attitudes are the death of real fellowship. Real fellowship happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. It requires both courage and humility; facing our fears of exposure, rejection and being hurt again...
IN REAL FELLOWSHIP PEOPLE EXPERIENCE MUTUALITY
That is the art of giving and receiving. Mutuality is the heart of fellowship: building reciprocal relationships, sharing responsibilities, helping each other. We are more consistent in our faith when others walk with us. The Bible commands mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, mutual serving and mutual honouring. (Who doesn't enjoy a bit of recognition and appreciation now and then?)
IN REAL FELLOWSHIP PEOPLE EXPERIENCE SYMPATHY
Today some call this 'empathy', but the biblical word is 'sympathy'; which meets the human needs to be understood and having your feelings validated. Self-pity dries up sympathy for others. Every time you understand and affirm someone's feelings, you build fellowship. The deepest most intense level is the FELLOWSHIP OF SUFFERING; we enter into each other's pain and grief and carry each other's burdens.
When circumstances crush us to the point that our faith falters, that's when we need believing friends the most.
IN REAL FELLOWSHIP PEOPLE EXPERIENCE MERCY
Fellowship is a place of grace. We all need mercy, because we all stumble and fall and require help getting back on track. (A good friend provided me with such impetus recently) You can't have fellowship without forgiveness - letting go of the past. Unlike trust, which has to do with future behaviour, forgiveness must be immediate. (Trust is rebuilt over time and requires a track record) If someone hurts you repeatedly, God commands you forgive then instantly (very hard to do). You are not expected to trust them immediately and you definitely are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you.
Let’s hope the aforesaid has made you hungry to experience the authenticity, mutuality and mercy of real fellowship. Love you more... ~ Stafford