I read a blog by a young man who had been an avid Christian in his teens - and now is an avid atheist. Puzzled by how otherwise intelligent people (like his parents, for whom I stopped to pray) could believe in God, he was at a family wedding when he had an ah-ha moment.
All the people there had based their lives on faith in Christ - the way they think and live and all of their family and friends were centered on faith in Christ. They couldn't think "rationally" because they would have to go against their whole community! He alone, in his opinion, had had the courage and intellectual honesty to do so. (He is so very young...)
Of course I disagree with his conclusion - that community commitment keeps people believing in God - because it fails to account for the very many whose commitment to Christ costs them their family, friends and even their lives. But he has a point.
John wrote his letter "that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with God the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." The more I read this letter, the more I see that that is the whole crux.
Fellowship - unity - partnership with God has 3 irreducible elements, and John goes around and around them through the whole book. Fellowship with God involves truth to believe, a way to live and a community to love. It involves the whole person, what we think, how we live, what we love. Pretty simple, really, but believers generally get tripped up on one of the other of those! At the end of his life, John has the heart of the matter.
For me, our young atheist is partly right. Part of what keeps me faithful to Christ and to his truth is ... well, you! When I feel weak or doubting, I don't have to carry it all myself. I just join in with the community of faith, with others who are more knowledgeable, more faithful, more intimate with God than I am. I need people like Laura T. at church who loves Jesus and follows him in the midst of big challenges. (Thank you Laura!)I need them - I need you - and they need me. That is part of what it means to be in "fellowship."
I will continue to think and read and pray about this ... I hope you will too!
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