The Pixar movie Wall-E serves as a modern-day parable of an ancient problem. This film, set in 2805, shows Earth as an abandoned planet covered in trash due to the excess and consumerism brought about by a megacorporation called “Buy-n-Large.” With no hope for restoring the earth, little trash compactor robots called Wall-Es are sent back to clean up the planet. Since the toxic environment on earth cannot sustain life, one Wall-E unit is left. He is lonely and longs for true love as his only friend is a cockroach. He ends up falling in love with E.V.E.—another robot—and they go on an adventure in a spaceship called Axiom back to where all the humans live as obese and selfish consumers. This film addresses the issues of loneliness, disconnectedness, the desire for real loving relationships, the tricky way we have to handle technology, and our consumer-driven culture of selfishness.
As believers, can we avoid having relationships with other people? Can we avoid the messy parts of living life together as the body of Christ? In a culture obsessed with technology and plagued by isolation and loneliness, how do we as God’s people handle these issues of relational disconnectedness? How does the gospel address a sincere desire for lasting friendships?
Acts 2:42–45: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
The word fellowship, or koinonia, means to share or to have a partnership as it carries the idea of having things in common. This passage describes fellowship with two particular details: (1) breaking bread together, and (2) taking care of each other’s needs. In that ancient Jewish culture, eating a meal together signified a deep friendship and intimacy where they shared life around the table. Today, we often relegate fellowship to something that happens in a fellowship hall with a quarterly potluck. Luke also describes the early church as selling their possessions and having everything in common. The sharing of possessions was a voluntary, spontaneous act of love that was not compulsory. This fellowship was a beautiful expression of gospel generosity.
I want to address three ruthless enemies that stand against “fellowship” and which are so commonplace in our lives that we barely recognize them. These are selfishness, busyness, and complacency. Let’s face it, we are selfish people that put me at the center of the universe. We don’t even bat an eye at the fact that selfishness is a sin against God. Selfishness says, “I’m more important than everybody else; therefore, everyone else must serve me.” We end up using other people for our gains whether we know it or not.
The second enemy is busyness, where we over plan, overcommit, and overextend ourselves so that there’s no time to cultivate genuine relationships and friendships with others. Busyness says, “My life is too complicated; therefore, I will not invest in building relationships.”
The third enemy to fellowship is complacency, where you don’t want to make the effort to foster new relationships. You want to avoid the messiness of getting heavily involved in others’ lives. You may silently want deeper relationships, but you make no effort to actually grow in this area. We face an uphill battle in light of our culture and the sinfulness within our soul that fights against practicing true biblical fellowship.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” Do you hear Paul’s affection and love for other believers? Paul was not content to share the gospel with them, and then quickly move on to the next town on his missionary agenda. Instead, he also wanted to share his life generously with them. Are you marked by selfishness, busyness, and complacency? Do you possess a deep affection for other believers shaped by the gospel of grace where you share your life generously? Are you connected to a local church where you can experience true biblical fellowship?