From Pauses for Pentecost
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14)
Imagine yourself in Paul’s place as he finishes this letter to the Corinthians. He wants to offer a blessing from the Trinity in such a way that each Person’s main characteristic gets emphasized. He thinks of Jesus Christ, and grace immediately comes into his mind. When he meditates on the Father, his thoughts focus on love. Now what word will he choose to say about the Holy Spirit? Will it be power? Or maybe gifts? He decides against it. He chooses the word fellowship. For Paul, this is the most important characteristic describing the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to draw us into fellowship with the Father and the Son and with one another.
Because fellowship has become such a vague and weak word today, I was disappointed when I first read this passage. However, over time I have come to see the critical importance of Paul’s choice of words. Fellowship, especially in its Greek translation, has a powerful meaning. It speaks of an intimate sharing of ourselves with one another and with God at all levels of our lives, ranging from the spiritual to the material. Think of Luke’s description of the early church community inundated by the Holy Spirit: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,” (Acts 2:44-46).
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of loving relationship, genuine friendship, and intimate connection. Right now, the Holy Spirit is active in us and is seeking to open us up to the Father and the Son and to one another.
How are we going to respond? Are we going to reflect the individualistic tone of our society and resist the Spirit by continuing to live self-interested and self-focused lives? Or are we going to respond to the Spirit and allow ourselves to be drawn into the fellowship that the Spirit creates and gives us? We can be sure that if we choose the latter, it will involve taking very practical steps like praying and worshiping together, giving hospitality to strangers, enjoying meals with others, giving material resources to those struggling, and generally learning how to how to live a deeper, shared life.
Spirit-filled Easter people are known much more by the quality of their relationships with one another than by any powerful gift they may exercise. Certainly, this is what Paul makes clear.
Do something practical today that expresses your belonging to others in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.