The three ships of fellowship are friendship, family-ship and partnership. In the last article we explored fellowship as a friendship.
In this article we will explore the filial aspect of our bond in Christ. In the next article we will examine the business or partner aspect of our fellowship. These three concepts describe what New Testament fellowship is.
We have all been born into physical families. We didn’t choose them; God has chosen for us. Likewise, we have been born into God’s family – complete with unique cousins, peculiar aunts, cranky uncles, sweet grandparents, dear mothers, and even difficult fathers. All of them are intended to be our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul commands us to conduct ourselves as one big happy family in the household of God, to “exhort older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1,2).
If we must correct one another, let us do so with a spirit of reverence and dignity as we would with our own fathers or mothers. With regard to our brothers and sisters, let us keep our interactions with one another free from harassment, teasing, manipulation or condescension. Instead let us conduct ourselves “with all purity.”
We love because of our love for the Father
The Apostle John made this observation: “…everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1b). Just as I naturally love the three children that my brother brought into this world because of my strong love for my brother, so too, I love the children of God because I love the God who gave them birth.
What is true in the natural realm is also true in the spiritual. By the second birth we have become intimately related: we have the same Father.
Liking the members of God’s family
Over the years I have heard a strange phrase used within the assembly. I have heard some say “I am called to love my brother but I don’t have to like him.” I disagree. God has called us not only to love but also to like the members of His body.
This is true for many reasons but three mainly:
- God loves His people and likes how He created them
- We are to be imitators of Him
- Try telling your children you love them but don’t like them then watch them wilt and wither.
I understand we are not to like someone’s stuffiness, obnoxiousness or moodiness, etc. (and neither does God) but we are not to dislike them personally nor despise their God-given personality.
A sense of belonging
Like a family, we have an inborn sense of belonging and a unique contribution to make to one another. At times you may feel that you do not belong. I suppose many teenagers have felt the same about their own physical families. But as we grow in the faith, we will come to understand that we too have a place and a contribution to make in God’s family.
The story is told of a king who decided to visit his garden. At the gate he was met by the oak tree. The oak tree was sad because he was not as tall and beautiful as the pine. The pine tree was sad because she could not produce fruit as the grapevine. The grapevine envied the peach tree because he could not produce fruit as big and as sweet.
The geranium pouted because he could not make a fragrance as sweet smelling as the lilac. At last, the king came to the violet. The violet’s face was turned to the sun and beaming. The king asked why she was so happy. The violet said, “If you wanted an oak, a pine, a grapevine, or a peach tree, you would have planted one. Since you wanted me to be a violet, I have determined to be the best little violet I can be.” 
A role to play
So it is with fellowship in God’s family. We all have a role and a part to play. We read in 1 Corinthians 12 that “…God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Cor.12:18). The Lord has seen fit to make one an oak and another a grapevine, one a geranium and another a violet.
Let us not envy one another, or be discouraged, but rather determine to bloom as what we have been planted.
 L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, p.21.