Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Part 7 of series: What is the Christian Life?
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In my last post, I showed how 1 John connects fellowship with God and fellowship with people in such a way that they are virtually inseparable. Although this notion might be surprising to some of us who have drunk deeply from the well of American individualism, in fact what we read in 1 John isn’t particularly new.
Consider the vast sweep of biblical revelation. When God created a solitary man, someone able to have a personal relationship with God, God said that it was not good for the man to be alone. So God formed a partner for the man, namely a wo-man (Gen 2). Later, God promised to bless Abraham not all by his lonesome, but by making him the father of a nation and by blessing all the families of the earth through him (Gen 12). God set his people free from Egypt, not so that each Israelite might please God individually, but so that the congregation of the Israelites would be a “holy nation” together (Exod 19:6). God views personal obedience as an aspect of corporate holiness.
Turning to the New Testament, we see that Jesus, in the moments before his death, prayed for those who would one day believe in him, that we might be “perfected into one,” even as he was one with his heavenly Father (John 17:22-23). Our Savior died on the cross for our personal salvation, to be sure, and also so that he might create one new humanity between formerly divided peoples (Eph 2). God’s ultimate plan is to “bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth” (Eph 1:10). Someday we will be united with all of God’s people, indeed, with all of creation. In New Testament visions of heaven, you will not end up sitting on your on private cloud playing a harp (as if this picture has any appeal). Rather, these visions show

a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. . . . And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10).

Someday we will join a vast heavenly choir, worshipping God in a way that is intensely personal and inescapably corporate. That’s not all we will do in heaven, I expect. But whatever we do, it won’t involve an eternity of playing spiritual solitaire. In fact, C. S. Lewis sees isolation from other people as an essential characteristic of hell, not heaven. (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Touchstone, 1996).
Thus, when John, in his first letter, links fellowship with God to fellowship among God’s people, he stands squarely within the long line of biblical revelation. When we are adopted by our Heavenly Father, we also join a great extended family.
One of the highlights of my life occurred when I was three and a half years old. The spring afternoon was bright and warm as my parents drove across town to finish a process that had taken many long months. It had taken forever, from my childish perspective. When we finally arrived at our destination, I hugged a special teddy bear in one hand, while nervously grabbing my mother’s fingers in the other. After walking down a long corridor, we stopped at a room. It was sparsely furnished, with a plain wooden crib in the corner. In that crib was a three-month old baby, my parents’ newly adopted son, Gary. My heart raced as I peered at him for the very first time. Dangling the teddy bear before his giant blue eyes, I swelled with pride when Gary smiled at me. This was not just my parents’ son. He was my brother!
Once we shared common parents, Gary and I became part of the same family. He couldn’t be their son without also being my brother. This remained true throughout our lives, in the good times and the bad times, whether we liked it or not. I was still Gary’s brother four years after his adoption when I ditched him in the hills above our home and he was lost for hours. Gary was still my brother when he clobbered me on the head with the sharp claw of a hammer, not in retaliation for his being ditched or anything like that, but just because he was curious to see what would happen to my head. (It bled profusely, and Gary ran into the house crying because he hadn’t intended to hurt me.) Gary and I were joyfully brothers when we stood together in each other’s weddings, or shared the wonder of holding each other’s babies only moments after they were born. I suppose that we could live without relationship together, but our lives would be impoverished and incomplete as a result.
Through the best of times and the worst of times, fellowship with our Heavenly Father initiates fellowship with his other children. Eternal life is personal life and shared life. Therefore, John seeks to have intimate fellowship with his spiritual children as they share intimate fellowship together with the living God.
In my next post in this series I’ll begin to consider how intimate fellowship impacts our whole life.

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