The word fellowship conjures up some rather strange associations in my mind. When I hear it spoken, I immediately think of coffee and donuts, along with the basement meeting spaces in churches where those coffee and donuts are served. Most strangely, I also think about the 2001 movie The Fellowship of the Ring. So somehow my concept of Christian community has become inextricably tied to a tale of men, dwarves, and elves dealing with “one ring to rule them all.”
Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.
I have a friend who has spent most of his life with people who live on society’s margins: People experiencing poverty or homelessness, those who wrestle with addictions or simply exist outside the mainstream, anyone who might be considered an outcast. “That’s where I seem to fit,” my friend says. “On the edges.” He helps believers in Jesus learn how to be in true friendship with those who are different. “This kind of friendship isn’t as complicated as we like to make it,” my friend insists. “Often it’s as simple as knowing someone’s name and how they like their coffee.”
Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.
Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.
My country esteems “rugged individualism”—the idea that truly strong people do things on their own. The icon of this peculiar value was the Lone Ranger, a famous fictional cowboy of radio and the silver screen, and a solitary masked hero that protected others from harm. But it’s interesting to note that the Lone Ranger was hardly alone. He had a trusty horse named Silver and a constant companion named Tonto. Because of this, the supposedly “Lone” Ranger had more friends than many people do!
I first experienced the beauty of the global body of Christ when I traveled from South Africa to Malaysia as a teacher. In that country, with its varying religions and cultural beliefs, I found a spiritual home away from home. From the moment I stepped into the little church down the road, I was warmly welcomed and treated like family. Thousands of kilometers away from where I grew up, I met people with the same spirit and the same love for Jesus.
My heart heavy, I was tempted to park my grocery cart and interrupt their conversation. Though I hadn’t heard the entirety of their acidic discussion, I caught enough to know the four shoppers were deeply dissatisfied with individuals at their local church. Ironically, not one of them looked any happier for their venting. I didn’t know them, those they were talking about, or even their church, but I grieved over this verbal ripping apart of the body of Christ in a public store aisle.
The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.
When I was 10 years old, Baskin-Robbins opened a new ice cream store in my neighborhood. It didn’t serve the icy, generic brand of sweet treats that my mom occasionally bought at the grocery store. This was good ice cream—thick and creamy!
Well-known seminary president Haddon Robinson was meeting with a wealthy donor to seek a sizable contribution. (I assume that it was for a ministry project.) When Robinson asked for a specific amount, the donor said something like this: “I was prepared to give you much more if you had asked.”
In 1893, the inventor of the machine gun was asked if his invention would make wars even more devastating. He replied that he believed they would make wars impossible. Many inventors and great scientists have said similar things over the years, only to discover that this was not the truth. Scientific progress has not slowed the beat of war, but has only made it far more deadly than it had ever been before.
Seemingly unaware of leaflets littering the sidewalk and placards dotting the corners of the intersection, the pedestrians around me continued their normal pace of life on this national election weekend. As a foreigner, I saw a distinct similarity between the smiling faces of the candidates staring from their two-dimensional advertisements and those from my home country. All promised change and hope.
My daughter is only 5 years old, but she’s a self- declared “artist.” One day we talked about paintbrushes. I selected two and handed them to her. The first brush was slim, with bristles that ended in a fine point. The other brush was larger and thicker. I explained that artists typically use bigger brushes to fill in large areas, while tiny brushes work better for small spaces and creating details. Painting involves choosing the right tool at the right time in the artistic process.
I had been doing well in my university classes and assumed that my upcoming logic exam was no big deal. A lukewarm sense of complacency settled over me. You might sum up my attitude as “I got this!”