The Need for Fellowship

"It is not good for the man to be alone" - Genesis 2:18

Following the glorious story of creation where everything that God made was good and then even very good in the creation of man, this is the first thing that is not good. The state of man's alone-ness, his solitude. The story leads into the creation of his helpmate, his bride: Eve, the mother of all the living. That solitude that God Himself states as not good doesn't just apply to Adam and Eve or simply a single person. It goes deeper than that. God is saying that it is not good for all of mankind to be alone. In other words, all of us are made for communion, for relationship. We have been made in the imago dei, the image of God who is perfect and infinite Relationship and Communion (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

That moment when Adam met Eve is one of my favorites in all of Scripture. "At last!" he exclaims. His joy isn't just in seeing the beauty of Eve but is also coming from the self-knowledge he just acquired. Adam had been searching for who knows how long for a suitable partner. Imagine coming to the conclusion that there is nothing else like you, no one that is like you. What would that do to your self image? For me, I would be filled with doubts about my own reality like, "Who am I? What is my purpose here? Will I always be alone?" All of those were answered the instant he met his wife. This is who I am made for. This one gives me purpose. I am not alone. Again, we can apply this to relationships outside of marriage. A son or daughter knows who they are through the love of their parents. Teens learn who they are through friendships and teachers. Adam found his purpose in protecting and loving Eve. Pope Saint John Paul II said that, "man truly discovers himself through a sincere gift of self." In giving of ourselves in relationship, willing the good of others, we truly come to the understanding of who we are.

We need fellowship. Yes, we are made in the image and likeness of God individually but we also live out that image (and many times more fully) through communion with others. One of the most inspiring stories of fellowship I've ever heard is in that of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. This band of brothers were elite Roman soldiers who lived around the year 320. They were all devout Catholics. There came a time during their service to the empire that the emperor decided that Christianity was a plague that needed to be purged. He ordered the ultimatum to passed through the empire: renounce your faith in Christ and live, or you will be put to death. This order even went through the military and reached the 40 from Sebaste. Despite their service they were still told to renounce their faith or they would die. Without hesitation they all chose death. Together they were marched to a lake during the dead of winter. They were told to undress and march into the freezing waters until they died. However, if they changed their minds they would have a nice warm bath waiting for them on the shore. Into the waters they went. You can imagine the group of brothers huddling together, praying and encouraging one another. Their breath like incense rising to God. Unfortunately, after some time one of them broke down. He couldn't handle the suffering anymore and abandoned his brothers. He ran to the shore renouncing his faith in Christ, jumped into the warm bath, and the shock from going from hypothermia to the warm bath killed him instantly. One of the pagan soldiers on the shore was very disturbed by this. That night he had a vision of the 39 still in the lake and saw golden crowns descending upon them from heaven. When he woke, he said, "I believe in that!," stripped down, and joined his new brothers in the lake making their number the holy 40 again. Eventually, the men of Sebaste began to succumb to their suffering and died. The last one living was carried behind a cart of his brothers by his mother who was praising him for his faith. They were all cremated together and their remains dumped into the river. That same night, secret Christians came to the river to try and find any of their remains, and behold, every bone fragment was illuminated like starlight so they could collect every one.

While not all of us are planning on being martyred any time soon, this type of Christian fellowship is what we were all made for. That group of friends who will pray with us and encourage us to keep the faith in difficult times. Iron sharpens iron. Who is helping you to be a better Christian, a better person? Who can you look to for inspiration in the faith? Are there relationships your are in now that are not leading you closer to God, but instead taking you further away from Him? Are you always looking for the easy way out and avoiding a challenge, especially a challenge to your faith? Are your striving to be a saint?

40 Martyrs of Sebaste, pray for us.

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