By Kelley Easley
As temperatures drop and the leaves change color in the Ozarks, I’m reminded that the holidays are fast approaching. Perhaps more so than at any other time of the year, the holidays beckon us to set aside time out of our busy schedules, and invite us to gather. Each holiday season, people pour countless hours of planning and preparation into creating the perfect gathering for family or friends. And while traditions and menus may vary, the simple purpose remains the same: fellowship.
As life and distance frequently relegate such gatherings to only certain times of the year, they take on extra meaning and can feel almost sacred. If they don’t, we secretly wish they did. Although it might be easy to want to dismiss such a sentiment and think instead, “I never see these people at any other time of the year, so what’s the point?”—that IS the point. The Lord created us for fellowship. It’s not a superfluous activity that we can simply decide to forego. It’s essential for our health and well-being.
Now, not all families are created equal, and by no means do I want to insinuate that every holiday gathering is healthy. We live in a fallen world and, sadly, the ideal seldom matches our reality. But the act of gathering, as a general principle, is good for us. The holiday gathering is just a snapshot of the larger plan God has for us when it comes to fellowship. We were created for community, not isolation. Holiday gatherings might feel “obligatory,” but at least they cause us to step outside of ourselves and engage with others in an intentional way. Hopefully, they remind us of the basic need we all have for connection.
As believers, we are called both to participate in regular fellowship and to extend the offer of fellowship to others. That is, as members of the body of Christ, we have a duty to gather with others not only for the sake of our own Christian growth, but also for the sake of theirs.
In Hebrews 10:25, the author exhorts his believing readers to do the following:
“…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NKJV)
In this verse, we see three clear instructions regarding fellowship: we are to consider one another, gather together, and exhort (or encourage) one another. The phrase “consider one another” sticks out to me. In his commentary, Hebrews: Partners With Christ, Ken Yates explains:
“But it is not just going to Christ that will allow the readers to hold fast to their hope…they can consider one another (v 24). He wants them to think of other believers. We can only be strong in our faith and the hope of rewards if we do so. We should not only be concerned about how we’re doing in our own spiritual growth, but also how the believers around us are doing” (p. 158).
Again, the Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation, but in community with like-minded believers who can encourage and sharpen us in our walk with the Lord. He created us to thrive within the context of fellowship and relationship. Psalm 68:6 tells us that “He sets the lonely in families.” God does not desire that anyone should walk this difficult road of life alone. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, King Solomon extols the virtues of companionship, saying:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (NIV)
Who could argue with that? In North American society, however, a premium is placed on independence. In marked contrast to other societies where multiple generations of families live happily together under one roof, the typical American trajectory is to move out—and often, to move away. This tendency towards independence breeds isolation. Busy schedules and the natural pull of our flesh cause us to focus solely on ourselves and our responsibilities.
But as the old adage goes, there is strength in numbers! When we gather with other believers either in person, over Zoom, or even over the phone, we can find comfort, hope, biblical wisdom, and renewed perspective. In isolation we may be easily “picked off” by the enemy, but when we regularly link arms with others who share our beliefs, we are fortified and strengthened in our faith.
As the holidays approach and gatherings abound, may we be reminded of the high value God places on fellowship and of the power of gathering in our Christian lives.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 NKJV)
Food for thought:
1. If you are not involved in a Free Grace community group or Bible study, what’s holding you back? Would you prayerfully consider joining one of our Zoom classes or weekly Bible studies? We have several opportunities for connection almost every day of the week. Don’t go it alone! Please get in touch with us for details. We’d love to link arms with you! (Proverbs 27:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
2. Is there someone who desperately needs your fellowship? Could you sacrificially give of your own time to strengthen the faith of a sister in Christ? Jesus promises to reward such acts of love and service! (Hebrews 6:10). Begin praying about ways the Lord might help you to reach out to this person in HIS strength. (2 Corinthians 9:8).