“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it …” (Malachi 3:16). True Christians fellowship a lot! That is beautiful, because when we fellowship with each other, we are fellowshiping with God the Father and Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). This should inspire us to desire more fellowship, to be people “given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
Fellowship helps build the Family of God in a wonderful way. Ephesians 4:16 describes the Church as a “body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” God places us within that spiritual body where it pleases Him, and that body is fitly joined together, compacted. How? By what “every joint supplieth”! Each of us as a “joint” within the body has a golden opportunity to build the Family of God because we can all supply one thing: fellowship!
Sometimes fellowship can occur spontaneously, such as when you are in town shopping and you run into another member. Soon you’re having coffee and enjoying each other’s company in fellowship. But more often than not, an individual, a couple or a family provides the impetus by planning and organizing an occasion: a dinner, a potluck, a games evening. Then they invite guests.
For some people, this comes more easily than for others. They may naturally have more outgoing personalities. They may have put the instruction of being “given to hospitality” into practice more often, so it now comes a little easier to them. But for others, hosting and inviting is more challenging. They may be naturally more introverted in personality. Hosting an occasion for fellowship can be daunting. Organizing an occasion, sending out the invites, and then hosting the event could be an important moment in their life and a wonderful opportunity to grow as a Christian, to strengthen as a “joint” within the Body of Christ.
This raises a question. When you are invited to partake of an evening, a night out, or an event, do you take the time to respond to that invitation? It might seem like a simple question, but it is an important one.
Jesus Christ brings out a Christian-living principle in one of His parables: “And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God. And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:11-19). Ten were cleansed—yet only one, a Samaritan, returned, thanked Christ, and gave glory to God for healing him. The other nine walked off! They gave no heed to the miracle that had occurred. The desire to give thanks did not even cross their mind: They were ungrateful.
The principle applies in our dealings with each other. An invitation to dinner, for example, is a wonderful opportunity for fellowship, especially if the invitation is from someone who is more reserved. Perhaps an invitation from him or her is a rare thing.
Do you actually take the time to get back to him or her? Do you write a quick note? “Thank you! We would love to—what can we bring?” or “Thank you so much for the invitation. Unfortunately we have another event on. Maybe we could catch up another time?” Sadly, that is not always the case. There have been a number of instances where invitations have gone out to brethren, and the person sending out the invite has received no response at all. No “Thanks for the invitation,” no simple “yes” or “no”—nothing. Like the healed lepers, the invitee has figuratively walked off!
This can be disheartening to the person sending the invite. It can cause him or her to be reluctant in the future to host again.
Answering your invitation, whether you are coming or not, helps the host prepare for the event. Neglecting to even reply to an invitation is discourteous, ungrateful and selfish.
Good etiquette expressed through courtesy should be an elemental part of our Christian conduct: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8). The Greek word translated “courteous” is used only once in the entire Bible, and it means to be friendly of mind. What a beautiful description! This is the mindset we need to have when we receive an invitation: friendly of mind, happy to respond to the host—whether with a yes or with a no—so he or she can adjust plans accordingly and send out another invite if necessary.
A courteous, quick response is the right thing to do; it is practicing the way of give. A non-response could be viewed as being neglectful of mind or even hostile of mind, uncaring what work a host is doing to organize an event because, Well, it doesn’t impact me.
True Christian fellowship is one of the great joys in life. Sabbath fellowship is both rewarding and enriching when the conversation is robust and spiritually vibrant. The potluck meal can be full of laughter and warm engagement shared by all around the dining table. The Feast of Tabernacles is full of excitement as we reconnect and fellowship with each other (this year, for some, it will be the first time in two years due to government restrictions). In its many wonderful forms, God’s people love fellowship!
An invitation to dinner, to an activity, to any event with a fellow member of God’s true Church is a wonderful thing to receive. It promotes fellowship, builds friendships, establishes trust, amplifies love, builds congregations, and strengthens the Body of Christ! So next time you receive an invitation, see it as a gift and treat it as such by being quick to respond!