REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 74: Pandemical partnerships.
Just last week I was asked to give some thought to the meaning of fellowship in the New Testament. It was a helpful reminder of the depth, breadth and riches of fellowship. Though much good fellowship is enriched, even initiated and sustained by cups of tea and coffee, it is so much more.
It has been said that the prospect of dying wonderfully concentrates the mind! For many around the world this has become literally true. But even for us in Australia, the pandemic with its remarkable levelling reality, has concentrated the minds of many. At least it should be doing so. Ask not for whom the bell tolls said John Donne, it tolls for thee. The death, and suffering of others, is always an invitation to not only try and understand what others are going through, but to play our part ameliorating their suffering. The grateful response, but for the grace of God go I, ought to evoke thanksgiving to God and generosity towards those who are suffering.
Our fellowship has opportunity to flourish, in two directions, with God and with others. Like the two equally necessary wings of an aeroplane, out thanks are borne upward and our money wings its way into the lives of people we are unlikely to meet this side of heaven.
I discovered afresh, that our primary fellowship is with God through the Lord Jesus Christ [1 John 1:3] and therefore to be real, we need to be walking in the light [1 John 1:7]. When we actively share our faith in Christ we are partnering with God and others [Philemon 6], so we are quick to thank God for the fellow Christians in our churches [Philippians 1:3-4]. All this gives us an opportunity to see our giving to our local church [Galatians 6:6], our being rich in good deeds [1 Timothy 6:18], partnering with others in mission [Philippians 4:15], and generous and sacrificial giving to local and poverty stricken believers in other countries [Romans 12:13; 15:26] as fellowship. Partnership with others through the sharing of material resources is a wonderful way for us to express our gratitude for the fellowship we have with our Father and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Partnership keeps us from a business mentality that would plough all the profits back into the enterprise with the view to enhancing our own profits and pleasure. A partnership model reminds us that we are accountable to God, our senior partner. More importantly, with hearts captivated by His remarkably costly love toward us, we want to imitate both our Father and our Saviour [Matthew 5:43-48, Ephesians 5:1-2]. The pandemic enables us to flesh out to whom this love might be shown. Put another way, it helps us to become those very people our Lord commends in that famous and searching parable of the sheep and goats [Matthew 25:31-46] with its punchline: I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers/sisters of mine, you did for me.
The opportunity to feed, clothe and visit, our brothers and sisters has rarely been more urgent, with so many suffering persecution and privation, since believers in many countries are denied governmental aid. Barnabas Fund [barnabasfund.org.au] and Open Doors [opendoors.org.au] are two well accredited Christian groups dedicated to aiding fellow believers who are persecuted. Their suffering, increased by the pandemic, gives us a unique chance to partner with God, whose gracious providence has given us so much, and so many with whom to share.
I cannot think of any investment that can match this one. For example through Barnabas [Project PR1530] $20 per month will supply persecuted and needy Indian families with a month’s sustaining food. In Mozambique 22 cents per day will supply enough protein and sustenance from a nutrient rich soy and maize product called ePap with $75 nourishing a family for 8 weeks [Project 00-345]. We are so well positioned to do good as we partner with God prayerfully and practically in this way. And when we consider the immediate dividend of weaning us from security and pleasure in riches [Luke 8:14], we prove afresh the joys of fellowship with our Father and our fellows in Christ.
Peter Brain 5th May, 2021