A few years ago, when our church started meeting together, we began to study through the book of 1 John. The first week we studied 1 John 1:1-4 -
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 – 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 – 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)
In this passage, John says that he is writing about what he has experienced concerning the word or message of life – and not just any kind of life, but the eternal life that had been revealed through Jesus Christ. This was real life, abundant life. The kind of life that cannot be manufactured, but must be birthed anew from above by the Holy Spirit of God.
John also says that he is proclaiming this life so that his readers can have fellowship with him which is actually fellowship with the Father and the Son. Fellowship encompasses many things, but at its foundation it represents sharing. Just as the early church shared their possessions with one another as a demonstration their fellowship, the God shares eternal, abundant, real life with his children, so that they can share that life together.
As we discussed this passage over the next few weeks, the idea of sharing eternal life together began to mold who we were as children of God. We were not simply coming together for a meeting on Sunday, but much more than that, we were sharing life with one another and with God. As John says, as we fellowship with one another, we are actually fellowshiping with the Father and with the Son. Why? Because true fellowship with one another is a work and manifestation of the Spirit of God.
From these early discussions, someone suggested the phrase “sharing in the life” as a description of who we are as a church. That simple phrase stuck, and we have been using it for the past several years. A few days ago, I was talking with some brothers and sisters who were not part of those early discussions. They did not know why we used the phrase “sharing in the life”. They encouraged me to share this story with the church. I think that’s a good idea, and since I’ve never shared this on my blog either, I thought I would share it here as well.
But, what does “sharing in the life” mean? It means that we experience fellowship with God as we fellowship with one another. We share in the eternal life we have with God as we share in the normal, everyday life with our brothers and sisters and Christ. I am convinced that we will not find fellowship and community if we only look for it in our special events and big activities. We will not find community if we only look in our weekly church meetings. Community may be expressed in those meetings and in other special events, but community will not be built or maintained there.
Instead, we “share in the life” with one another when we truly spend time with one another in the common, everyday events of our lives – at our homes, in our workplaces, at school, in the marketplace, at sporting events, everywhere at every time and in every way. We will not find community as long as we only show people our “best faces” in those times and places where we can control what is going on. Instead, we will find community when we allow people to see us as we normally are – day in and day out – and when we allow people to see us at our worst.
“Sharing in the life” is more than a motto or catch phrase. It is a truly scary proposition – a recognition that our fellowship with one another is founded on the grace of God, just like our fellowship with God is founded on his grace. We trust one another to share our lives – even the mundane – because we trust God.