Love. Live. Preach. Teach.—Live Him, Part 3

November 8, 2011

by Peter Amsterdam

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In this article we continue looking at some of the principles which are connected to Live Him.

The Forgiveness Principle

The Forgiveness Principle is of great importance in the lives of Christians, and especially disciples. When the apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus said 490 times. Clearly He wants us to forgive.

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.[1]

The Lord knew that people would offend and sin against you, and that you would do the same to them. Saying that we should forgive one another 490 times is a clear indication that Jesus considered forgiveness necessary, and something that we would most likely have to do on a regular basis.

As the apostle Paul said, everyone is a sinner, and therefore everyone needs forgiveness.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.[2]

Remembering that you sin against others and need them to forgive you provides impetus for you to forgive others. The Lord also gave motivation for us to do so when He said:

If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.[3]

Jesus stresses the weight forgiveness carries by saying that if you don’t forgive others, the Father won’t forgive you. In stating this, Jesus makes it clear that there is a benefit to those who forgive—that benefit being that God forgives you your sins and offenses, and therefore you can be in right relation with Him. (See “Forgiveness and Salvation” for more on this topic.)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, there is further instruction on forgiving one another.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.[4]

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.[5]

Forgiveness was core to Jesus’ ministry on earth, as the key reason for His life here was that He could die so that we may have forgiveness for sin, and so that we don’t have to suffer the spiritual death that sin brings. If Jesus suffered and died so that we may be forgiven, then it seems that our forgiving others, as Jesus asks of us, is certainly something we as His disciples should do.

The Forgiveness Principle is important, as by giving your forgiveness to others you are acting in love. Love is also one of the principles of living Him. Forgiving restores relationships, it restores unity, it brings peace into your life, and can bring peace into the lives of those you forgive. Forgiving others benefits your spiritual life. As you forgive, the load of resentment or bitterness you've been carrying toward those who have sinned against you will dissipate, bringing you serenity.

The Fellowship Principle

The Fellowship Principle has its root in love—God’s love for us and our love for Him, as well as our love for our brothers and sisters in Him. In some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples, He expressed these two key concepts:

The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.[6]

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.[7]

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.[8]

The Greek word most often translated as fellowship is koinōnia, (koy-no-nee-a) which has a few different meanings, including fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, communication, and intimacy in the sense of a close personal relationship.[9]

As Christians, we have communication with God, communion with Him. When we abide in His love, we remain in Him, we interact with Him, and have a personal connection with Him. All of this indicates that we have fellowship with God, and that fellowship is rooted in our love for God and His love for us.

Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.[10]

Likewise, we should have communication and personal interaction, and be in community with, our brothers and sisters—our Christian family. In doing so we have fellowship with them, and that fellowship is also rooted in love. When others see loving fellowship among Christians, they often recognize the special connection, the spiritual bond that exists between the believers, and which is a reflection of their love for God and His love for them.

When disciples gather together for spiritual fellowship, there is an additional key element added to the mix: God’s presence is there.

For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.[11]

There is something dynamic when Christians gather together in fellowship, in worship, in community. The Lord’s presence, the Holy Spirit, creates an alive, loving atmosphere within the body of believers.

Each person brings their love for the Lord, their love for others, their spirit, to the gathering of the brethren; when they all join together, it’s as if a new spiritual entity is formed. It’s similar to the members of a sports team getting together; the resulting camaraderie, shared purpose, and unity create the team spirit. In a similar fashion, when individual relatives get together for a reunion, and together they make up their family, they can form something greater than when they are alone.

When Christians get together, the synergy it creates empowers them in a greater way. Being together, praying, worshiping, giving testimonies, sharing hearts, having deep conversations, enjoying each other’s company, all creates a wonderful atmosphere which strengthens and uplifts those participating. Each person’s light, warmth, and love, when joined together creates a greater light, warmth, and love, which all benefit from.

Gathering for fellowship strengthens faith, and encourages and generates love.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.[12]

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.[13]

As Christians, we have a common citizenship with other Christians. The apostle Paul describes it as being members of God’s household, of the same family.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.[14]

Gathering for fellowship can therefore be seen as members of a family coming together, being together, loving one another as brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, uplifting one another, helping one another, encouraging one another.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.[15]

Fellowship is a time to join together in prayer and praise to the Lord, to come before Him as a body of believers, to worship Him together. It’s also an opportunity to pray for one another, to give one another spiritual support.

Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.[16]

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.[17]

Fellowship edifies, strengthens, encourages, and uplifts. It also brings joy as we share news, catch up on others’ lives, as our children play together. It’s a time when we are gathered in the Lord and He is present. We gather together in the warmth of His love and light.

If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.[18]

Having spiritual fellowship is something disciples do to strengthen and nourish their faith and the faith of their brothers and sisters.

(To read the next article in this series, click here.)

[1] Matthew 18:21–22.

[2] Romans 3:23.

[3] Matthew 6:14–15.

[4] Ephesians 4:32.

[5] Colossians 3:12–14.

[6] John 16:27.

[7] John 15:9.

[8] John 13:34–35.

[9] Because Christian fellowship is something that was developed in the time of the early church, after Jesus' ascension, the Epistles rather than the Gospels have the most information. Thus the verses used regarding the Fellowship Principle are mostly from the Epistles.

[10] 1 John 1:3.

[11] Matthew 18:20.

[12] Romans 1:11–12.

[13] Hebrews 10:24–25.

[14] Ephesians 2:19.

[15] 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

[16] 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

[17] James 5:14.

[18] 1 John 1:7.