“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).
How do you describe living in God’s community? Christian fellowship? Church family? Paul gives us a good starting point for a discussion of the nature of fellowship in the opening lines of 1 Thessalonians.
Thankfulness. The Christian community is made up of people who are thankful for one another. Like most communities that thanks is expressed face to face. But what makes the community uniquely Christian is that thanks being expressed with “face to ground,” in other words, thanks is poured out to God. God deserves our thanks; after all, He is the One who brings people into our lives. He is the One who works through people, bringing peace, joy, and love to the community.
Prayer. The fellowship of believers is held together by prayer. Prayers are offered for the kingdom work being done by our brothers and sisters. Deeper still, prayers are offered for the faith and love motivating that work. Prayers are offered for the patient endurance needed to stand the tests of faith and trials of life. Deeper still, prayers are offered for the second-coming inspired hope which bolsters that endurance.
Recognition. In a church family people recognize God is at work. In a physical family you don’t choose your brothers and sisters, they are born into your family. It’s the same in a spiritual family. God chooses people, they are born into your spiritual family by the work of Almighty God. We rightly think of the community as “our church family,” but we know ultimately the fellowship belongs to God. He is the source and sustainer of life.
1 Thessalonians is all about fellowship, community, family. Paul uses the words “brother(s)” 19 times in the five chapters. And these opening lines go a long way toward explaining exactly what living in community is all about. Yes, it is difficult to give up on one another and abandon one another when you are giving thanks and praying for one another. But it’s almost impossible to do so when you know God not only has chosen these people, but is working in them.
Fellowship, in a very practical way, is about thanking, praying, and knowing.