Fellowship comes from the Greek word, KOINONIA, which means “to share in common.” Christian fellowship is more than attending worship — it is “assimilating” into the body of believers, becoming “one” with a like mind and heart in worshipping, loving, caring and sharing. According to the scripture, fellowship is not an optional matter for believers. It says, “if walk in the light [in fellowship with God]... this causes us to have fellowship with one another.” And from the outcome of this fellowship, “the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Therefore it is within the body of Christ, the Church (1 Cor. 12:27). For the blood of Jesus Christ to have its continual cleansing effect over our sins, we must remain attached to a genuine body of believers where the Holy Spirit is evident. If we sever fellowship with His body, we risk cutting off the circulation of the cleansing blood!

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is obviously the basis for the forgiveness of our sins, but the Bible indicates that we cannot have a proper relationship with Christ without a proper relationship with His people. For example, the scriptures indicate that our worship to God is unacceptable unless we make things right with an offended brother and sister, even if we are not the cause of offense. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). God will not accept our worship when strife or unresolved issues remain within a family, His Spirit cannot reside or pass through a heart burdened with unforgiveness and judgment.

Not only does the Bible say that “fellowship” is the evidence of walking in the light (1 John 1:7), but it also says that “loving the brethren” is evidence of that walk. “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). If we are walking in wholeness with Christ, our path will not be marked by hurting others, it cannot. There is a strong, inseparable relationship between “fellowship” and “loving the brethren.” Consequently, that fellowship is intended to be the practice of loving the brethren, which helps keep us in a right relationship with Christ so that His shed blood can continue its full cleansing effect.

Many passages of the Bible confirm that “love toward the brethren” is proof of our salvation. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren...” (1 John 3:14). The spiritual fruit of love is not just a feeling or an emotion, but rather it is a decision. This fruit of the Spirit causes us to make a decision to forgive and love even when we don't feel like it. In essence, we must maintain a right relationship with our brothers and sisters in order to have a right relationship with the Father. We are able to see an image of our relationship with God from the reflection of our relationship with others. “...for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). We fool ourselves to think we are right with God through Christ if we are fixed in opposition against any person.

Fellowship with the brethren is an exercise of love bringing us toward spiritual maturity. Our relationship with other Christians is the barometer that measures our spiritual temperament. Your degree of love toward others is the measurement that shows our love for God. “...If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

Fellowship with the body of Christ is where love is tested and proven. It is the opportunity to learn how to love one another — it is God’s classroom for developing Christian character. We grow by the strengths and weaknesses of those we come in contact with. The mature imitator of Christ will be the first to reach out to broken hearts and restore fallen souls, they help to strengthen and encourage the body almost instinctively. While the weaknesses in the less mature give us the opportunity to practice — to test and prove our spiritual growth in longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

We all will meet rude, difficult, offensive, immature believers in the body and those of the world. But always stop and recall, they are difficult and brash because they are hurting and are actually needing love. They need someone mature, who is not on the defensive to show them love and patience as to bring down the rocky walls, and we benefit from them by practicing and developing our love for others. When you can remain loving and steadfast, even if brothers say negative things about you, lets you down, or commits offenses, your love is being perfected — you’re growing up as a Christian and becoming more like Christ. He suffered far more than we shall ever suffer, and Christ was not concerned about his own agenda. His ONLY concern was for the welfare of others at the expense of self. He is the relationship model to imitate!

How much love do you have for those around you? The Scriptures say that we’re supposed to be ready to lay down our life for our brothers. But do you suppose we would really lay down our life for them if we are not willing to seek amends for offenses? “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus expressed that we must be committed to the love others in the same way that He was. He stated that this love toward others was THE evidence to prove our authenticity as Christians to the world. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). If we do not accept the offensive and unlovable, we fail to uphold our testimony and prove to all we do not abide in Christ. Willful rejection of seeking oneness is evidence of not walking in the light. A famous preacher once said “show me a professing Christian who refuses to forgive, and I’ll show you a backslider who needs to get their heart right before God.”

All through the New Testament, Jesus shows us that He takes personally, how we relate to His body. Our love, expressions of kindness, and ministry to any of our brothers and sisters in Christ are received as though they were done unto the Lord, Himself. “...inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40).