Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Qualities of a Powerful Fellowship

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  I Peter 3:8-9
The People are Sympathetic
Sympathy is the ability to understand and support the emotional situation or experience of another with compassion and sensitivity.  It is a feeling of care and understanding for individuals suffering from the blows of life.  Sympathy honestly cares and, out of that concern, shares and supports another.
It is Christianity that has taught people to care.  It is out of pain for others and with others that we reach out to help others.  To try to help without hurting is impossible for the Christian. 
1 Corinthians 12:26 gives the best description of real Christian sympathy…not just crying with others but rejoicing as well.  ...but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  We want to rejoice with each other as well as share sorrows. 
The fellowship of the church also provides opportunity for empathy. Empathy can be felt without words being spoken.  It is the ability to co-experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of another without them being communicated directly by the individual.  In the church there are some who have been through the same experience and know well the emotions and difficulty another may be going through. Such identification is a great support.  It goes beyond sympathy, which is simply the mental awareness of the general plight of another person. 
How can we develop a merciful spirit? At our rare times of introspection, we do desire to be more merciful and forgiving, but we seem to have unlearned those emotions.  How can we relearn them? How can we be, as the Scripture exhorts us, more tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving?
Perspective - Seeing as God sees can be a giant step toward a merciful, tender-hearted, and sympathetic attitude. Sometimes we are too busy for people to be very important. Caught up with our goals and our projects, we see ourselves as busy people, always behind, working hard to get things done. In the hustle of busy lives it is easy to overlook the pain of another or share in a time of support.  Such is not the nature of a quality fellowship of believers who share in the suffering and joy of others.
Sympathy invokes the heart of Christ.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses... Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) His heart endeavors to restore out of a spirit of meekness and tenderness.
Sympathy and selfishness cannot co-exist.  Sympathy will live where Christ rules and reigns. It is impossible not to care when Christ in you reaches out to Christ in another.
Scripture to Claim
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

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