Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “One is a brother to another only through Jesus Christ… What determines our brotherhood is what a man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.” He goes on to say that this has massive ramifications in how we see each other and our gatherings. This is an eternal fact—eternally in the past and eternally in the future—that is experienced in the present moment. Nothing can add or take away from this reality. While the present experience of this eternal reality may change, the fact remains that we are forever joined because we are all unified to Christ. In 1 John 1:3, John wrote that he proclaimed the gospel to his readers so that they might have fellowship with him because they would have fellowship with God.
Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.
Friendship among Christians is a grace from God and should be cherished by those of us who enjoy it so regularly. We should approach every engagement with our brothers and sisters in Christ with a heart of thanksgiving towards God. Many Christians around the world eagerly desire the time we have every week where we read the Bible, sing, and talk together. Paul, when he was in prison, longed to see Timothy so that he could be “filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4). The meeting of fellow Christians is a time for refreshment and strengthening. We bring the gospel to one another, reminding each other of the truths declared over us by Christ, even when do not feel them presently. Paul told the Christians in Rome that he longed to see them “face to face” so that they could mutually encourage one another (Romans 1:12).
The human heart is made for community. While the cultural mandate laid out at the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 assumes a community who loves God and loves others, the fall has twisted our desire for community towards selfish ends. We seek friendships merely to validate our own status. We form partnerships in order to gain an advantage in business. We take advantage of each other in order to satisfy our lusts. Even charity work can be used to make us feel better about ourselves.
We bring the gospel to one another, reminding each other of the truths declared over us by Christ, even when do not feel them presently.
Christian love in this present age, however, is a partial return to the original design. We know that the love of God pours outward (John 3:16) and that our love for one another is a testimony to the world of our discipleship (John 13:35). God loves like this because He does not need anything (Acts 17:25), He is complete in Himself. Just as the fullness of a tree pushes outward as fruit, so the infinite love amongst the Godhead spills outward into creation. In the same manner, Christians abiding in Christ are filled with love and acceptance from that union, overflowing to produce fruit in the form of love and service to others (John 15.5). This love should saturate the gatherings of believers, with each Christian trying to outdo the others in showing honor (Romans 12:10).
While the present experience of this eternal reality may change, the fact remains that we are forever joined because we are all unified to Christ.
While we fall utterly short of faultless love that is not tainted by selfish ambition, we can strive for perfection through prayer and a continual return to the story of true love, the Gospel. Love others, not for what they bring to you, but rather because God loves them. If they are believers, then you have nothing more or less than Christ Himself holding you together. Whether we have anything else in common, we have Christ and His declaration that we are righteous and bound together with Him. We are united for eternity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Strive for peace within the Church because Christ is not divided. Even when we must part ways and see each other less, take heart—we shall spend eternity side by side praising the One who holds us all forever and ever.