TEXT: 1 John 3:13-18
As we continue our series, allow me to read from the story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as a prelude to our topic for today. Christian has now come out of the Valley of Humiliation, and as he proceeds on his journey, he meets another believer who is also walking the straight and narrow way. Bunyan writes:
Now as Christian went on his way, he came to a slight ascent which was specially designed so that pilgrims could more easily see ahead of them; therefore Christian went up and, looking forward, he saw Faithful in the distance intent on his journey. Then did Christian call out loudly, “Here, here, look here. Wait, let me catch up and I will be your companion.” At this Faithful looked behind him, causing Christian to again cry out, “Wait, wait till I catch up with you.” But Faithful replied, “No, I travel with my life at stake, and the Avenger of Blood is close behind.”
This reply somewhat moved Christian, so mustering all his strength he quickly caught up with Faithful and in fact raced past him so that the last had become first! As a result Christian smiled with a sense of self-congratulation; he felt proud of now being ahead of his brother. Yet not paying attention to his feet, he suddenly stumbled and fell to the ground, and was unable to get up, that is until Faithful came up to help him?
Then I saw in my dream that both of them went on very lovingly together; and they had delightful conversation about all of the things that had happened to them on their pilgrimage.
You’ve heard it said many times that everybody needs somebody. When Christian left his home in the city of Destruction, he left alone, but he did not stay alone for long. All along the way to the Celestial City, he met and conversed with other servants of the King who helped him on his way. And, the fact of the matter is, none of us can make it on our own either. We need the friendship and companionship of other believers to help us grow and become stronger in the Christian faith. Today, I want to share with you one of the main reasons why this is the case.
One of the reasons why you need Christian friendships is because the world will not be friendly to you if you are a Christian. The apostle John writes, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” Yes, the world will hate those who are committed to Jesus Christ. Don’t be shocked, don’t be stunned if the world hates you. Once you become a follower of Christ, you are no longer a part of the world. You are no longer a part of Satan’s family. You are a part of God’s family, and the two are sworn enemies.
You need Christian friendship and companionship in order to live and grow as a Christian. One of the first things Jesus Christ did when He began His public ministry is he gathered twelve others around Him to work with Him. Even He did not try to go it alone. When Jesus Christ sent His disciples out to preach on their own, he sent them two-by-two. He did not send them out alone.
One of the basic marks of a follower of Jesus Christ is that he or she has a love for the church and other believers. Our passage states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” You ought to want to be around other believers. You ought to want to fellowship with other believers. If you do not love your brothers and sisters in Christ — if you would rather hang out with worldly people than with other believers — then you ought to examine yourself to see if you are truly saved. John states, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
Your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ ought not to be perfunctory, and it ought not just to be shown by your words. John tells us that we show our love for other believers through our actions. Using Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of someone who showed love by His actions, he states, ” Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The word “perceive” means to know. We know that God loves us not just because He tells us so, but because He demonstrated that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross. The basic point of this verse is that believers ought to help other believers. We ought to care for each other and supply each others needs if we are able to do so. Verse 17 reads, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Part of the reason why Jesus Christ established the church is so that believers might have a place of friendship, companionship, and refuge in a hostile world. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Jesus’ words let us know that we will be hated by the world simply for the fact that we choose to identify with and follow Christ. If you try to walk in the world and among worldly people as a Christian, one of two things will happen: Either you will slowly but surely slip back into worldliness in order to fit in and receive the approval of the world, or you will be isolated and ostracized if you refuse to backslide and instead point out the evil in the world. Oftentimes, the result of this isolation, especially if you do not have a community of believers around you, is depression and growing weary in well-doing.
John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress, was a Puritan preacher. The Puritans placed a high value on sharing their experiences with other believers in order to build each other up and strengthen each other in the faith. Richard Sibbes, an Anglican theologian, wrote: “For our better encouragement in these sad times, and to help our trust in God the more, we should often call to mind the former experiences, which either ourselves or others have had of God’s goodness, and make use of the same for our spiritual good. We should take notice of God’s dealings with us in sundry kinds; how many ways he hath refreshed us, and how good we have found him in our worst times. This hath formerly been the custom of God’s people, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.'”
The experiences we share in the body of Christ are part and parcel of being a Christian. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” We live in perilous times. As the second coming of Jesus Christ draws near, times will get harder and harder for Christian people. This world is not our home and it is not our friend. Satan’s influence in the world seems to get stronger and stronger as our society is turning away from basic moral principles and Judeo-Christian values. Things which would have been unspeakable just a few decades ago are commonplace and celebrated today: atheism, homosexuality, transgenderism, secularism, sexual relationships between students and teachers, just to name a few. The battle lines between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light have been drawn starker than ever before. The middle ground is shrinking. You must be on either one side or the other. And, if you are on the side of Christ and the church, you will be hated by the world which is controlled by Satan.
That is why we need each other. It can be a lonely world for a Christian who tries to walk the straight and narrow way on his own. He can easily become discouraged and frustrated. But, when we have each other to lean on, and when we can encourage each other with our shared experiences, we gain the strength to continue on our journey and to not grow weary in the faith.
There’s a hymn that expresses the unity that ought to exist among believers. It was written in 1782 by John Fawcett — “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.”
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.