Everyone looks for a place to belong, a group of people caring and receiving care and acceptance. Some find it in a club that shares the same hobbies or goals. Some find it in a sports team, and yet others in work. The best community for believers is the church of Jesus Christ. It is in the community of the church that we are bound together by the same set of beliefs in God.
Christians should be bound together by the unbreakable tie of God’s Word. It should be the strongest tie we have. Stronger than our political beliefs. Stronger than our ethnic origins or race. The Christian community, and being bound together in it, is a big deal. It’s essential for our happiness and growth. It’s not an optional part of the Christian life, as we are told not to forsake the brethren fellowship in Hebrews 10:25. When we are in close relationships with other believers, we have people to pray for us, support us, encourage us, exhort us and serve alongside us.
How do we join Christ in the fellowship of Christs suffering? And why would we want to join in anyone’s suffering? I was reading in Col. 1: 24, and I got a glimpse of understanding about this mystery.
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
The latter part of this verse turned the lightbulb on for me. “For the sake of his body, which is the church,” tells us that his body is you and I. For those in the past, present, and future, Christ suffered through our sins on the cross. The word informs us, He became sin, our sin. He bore our sins for us and paid the price for our salvation, a debt we could never pay. So when he suffered on the cross, he experienced every evil thing that ever has been and ever will be done. It is on the cross that Christ identifies with us in all our faults and humanity.
How do we join in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? Every time we are suffering with other members of Christ’s body (the church), we participate in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. Jesus has already suffered through and paid the price for whatever temptation or struggle we are currently experiencing. If we love one another and love Christ, we bear one another burdens, as the Apostle Paul told us in Galatians 6:2. Every time we pray with another believer that is heartbroken over their sin, or wrong decision that has caused them heartache, we join Christ in His suffering. Every time we take a meal to a family that is mourning or recovering from an illness, we join Christ in His suffering.
As a community of believers, we must join Jesus in the fellowship of His suffering.