That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. – 1 John 1:1-4
I have shared previously the joy I experienced during a dramatic sketch gone wrong during a worship service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Arlington, Texas. It was a moment of joy in the deepest sense of the word: a funny, deeply-felt, warmly embraced, moment of delight. Sadly, however, this is not always the case in the church at all times. Sometimes – even in that wonderful congregation – tempers flare and emotions take over. Sometimes the fellowship is broken by sinful pride, spiritual blindness, or a failure to remove the log from our own eye before trying to remove the speck from anothers’ view.
John shows us the better way of sweet fellowship: connecting in faith to God, the Father through his Son and – although not named – by the power of the Holy Spirit. When our focus is on Jesus and his gift of eternal life, we will be less focused on those niggling differences of opinion and personal preferences. When we focus on the latter there will be reasons aplenty to scuttle the treasure of a sister or brother in Christ who is God’s gift to us – even when they rub us the wrong way (from our perspective). Sometimes we need to have the rough edges of our personal opinions and lightly-challenged convictions rubbed smooth.
The Psalmist says it is good and pleasant when brother dwell together in unity (Psalm 133). John tell us that joy is a result of Jesus’ gift of eternal life and our fellowship around that gift. We may need to speak words of challenge to one another. We may even need to be confronted with wrongly-held opinions and convictions. That is part of the making of true fellowship. But in the end, true fellowship – through Jesus Christ – is a sweet blessing from God and something highly to be valued, pursued, and protected. It is a cause and venue of complete joy.