We are meditating on the topic of Fellowship this month. All of you know that we are called the Bangalore Bible Fellowship. How many of us know what we stand for, what BBF stands for? What is our purpose? I want to start with that today.
The Purpose Statement of Bangalore Bible Fellowship reads like this. “We are a body of believers, making a difference, as light and salt, at the workplace, and in the community, under the Lordship of Christ.” The three key aspects of the Purpose statement are Body of believers, light and salt and Lordship of Jesus Christ. We will dwell on each of them briefly before we close. But to begin with let us focus on the word Fellowship that differentiates us from other congregations. What is so great about a Christian Fellowship? What does Fellowship really mean in the context of the body of Christ and His Lordship?
But let us start by looking outside of the church first. What do you think is common between Vijay Mallya, Subrato Roy and Ramalinga Raju? They are all discredited business men, who got into the wrong side of the law. But if you really look at what they did and what punishment they got, you might still wonder at the proportionality of the punishment. Mallya is actually still roaming free with all his personal finances intact. Subrato Roy is still enjoying all the benefits of his personal finances. Satyam Raju though he is in Jail, still has a lot of wealth to his name and that cannot be taken away. Employees of Kingfisher airlines who do nto get their salaries. Or depositors in the Sahara ventures who lost their hard earned money etc cannot get any refunds from the personal wealth of a Mallya or a Subrato Roy. Do you know why is this so? Let us look at their companies. Let us look at the companies where our congregation members work. Kalai works for IBM. If you really look into the legal status of IBM in India, it would be known as IBM India Pvt Ltd. Same is the case with Oracle India Pvt Ltd. Or Mercedes-Benz India Pvt Ltd. What do you see common among them? The three letters Ltd. The same is the case with Mallya’s companies, whether it is Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, or United Breweries Ltd. Same with Subroto Roy’s companies; Sahara India Life Insurance Company Ltd, Sahara Next Pvt Ltd. Etc etc.
You see those crucial three letters Ltd coming at the end of every name of the organisations. What does that really mean? The Ltd stands for Limited. What does Limited really mean when it comes in the name of an institution? American Companies make it very clear. The company that Neville works for is Laureate Global LLC. LLC is the US equivalent of Indian Ltd. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. The variations of that are Limited Liability Partnerships, or Limited Liability corporations. So that is what the LLC or the Ltd stands for. It stands for the limited liability that the owners/ shareholders have in case something goes wrong. The owners of the company have only limited liability to the extent of the nominal value of the shares that they hold in a particular company. Their personal wealth is protected, and cannot be touched just because the company went bankrupt or smaller shareholders lost their life savings due the mismanagement of the owners.
I hope you get the drift of where I am going with this. In the world, Institutions are build based on limited liability. You will see this when you buy an insurance policy or you deposit money in a bank, or you download a software, or you buy a product and look at the warranty or guarantee card. In the world, relationships or institutions are built on the principle of limited liability.
Probably the only worldly institution where limited liability does not work is in the institution of marriage. One exasperated husband was complaining, “I got into the marriage thinking that it is going to be a limited liability partnership. She stole my credit card, and I am now left with no partnership, but a lot of liability.” I am sure some of us can identify with that poor man. But again jokes aside, the fact is that worldly institutions are built on the principle of limited liability.
Now let us look at the concept of Christian Fellowship. Can a fellowship work on the basis of Limited liability? Look at the purpose statement of BBF again. It starts with the words, “We are a body of believers…” Consider a body. Can the different parts of the body hold limited liability towards other parts of the body? What happens when the lungs say I will go by the limited liability concept and I will supply only limited amount of oxygen to the brain? What happens when the heart says I will pump only a limited amount of blood to the hands? What will happen if the stomach says I will supply limited nutrition to the legs? You get the picture. A body cannot exist if the members of the body go by the limited liability clause. When you are part of a body, you have to have unlimited accountability to each other. Let us remind ourselves from the bible about what does it mean to be parts of a body 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NIV) Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
Now you are a body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it!! Let us remember that as we consider being members of BBF. We cannot be members of this fellowship and hold limited liability to each other. Last week Pastor Davis taught us about the number of times we need to forgive. Was that a limited number? No. Jesus asks us to forgive unlimited number of times. Same is the case with other fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) Unlimited love, Unlimited joy, Unlimited peace, Unlimited forbearance (patience), Unlimited kindness, Unlimited goodness, Unlimited faithfulness, Unlimited gentleness and Unlimited self-control.” What does this mean to us in our day to day dealings with the other members of the fellowship? It simply could mean that I will call someone even if he/she did not call me. It means I will visit another member of the congregation, even when no one visits me. It means, I will wish someone on their birthday, even if he/she did not wish me for mine. It means I will give to someone in need, even though that person did not give to me when I was in need. It means I will be gentle even when the other person is being rude to me. It means I will pray for someone else in the congregation even when I feel that no one prays for me. I leave it to you to decide what it means to you personally. Let the Holy Spirit lead you as you examine yourselves and think about what it means for you to be part of this fellowship, unlimited fellowship, be part of this body of Christ, in an unlimited manner, without the limited liability clause that the worldly institutions go by.
We may be tempted to say it is too much. We might be tempted to ask why? For an answer to that question, let us look at the third aspect of the BBF purpose statement. Our purpose statement ends with “….under the Lordship of Christ.” What does that mean? What does being or doing things “… under the Lordship of Christ” mean to us? Does it mean calling “Lord Lord” to Jesus? Does it mean saying “Praise the Lord” every time we see other? Let us look at what Jesus says. Matthew 7:21 (NIV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. He asks again Luke 6:46 (NKJV) “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?. After washing his disciple’s feet, he categorically explained John 13:13-15 (NLT) “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” He could not have been more explicit. Do as I have done to you. As per Jesus “..under the Lordship of Christ” means obedience. “.. under the Lordship of Christ” means doing what He has done. And what He did was not based on the limited liability clause of the world. When He took off His outer garments and washed His disciples feet, He was not going by the limited liability clause. When He said, come to me those who are heavy laden, He was not evoking the limited liability clause. When He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” He was not practicing the limited liability clause. When He spread out His hands on the cross and gave up His life for us, He was not going by the limited liability clause. He was practicing and demonstrating unlimited liability towards humankind. He was saying, it does not matter what you say about me, it does not matter what you do to me, I love you and that is unconditional, unlimited, no strings attached.
So this morning, what does “….under the Lordship of Christ” mean to us? Can we look at the example that was set by Jesus and relate to our brethren in the congregation in an unlimited liability manner? Do as I have done to you. He said. Can we obey that and truly call ourselves as being “..under the Lordship of Christ”?
And lastly let us look at the second aspect of BBF purpose statement. The middle part of the purpose statement reads “…making a difference, as light and salt…”. What does this mean? This is the easiest to understand, and probably the most difficult to practice. That is why I kept it for the last. Many a times, preachers stress on the “being part”, and they say, “being” is the most important aspect. Thus “being” in fellowship with the Lord, and with others as Pastor Davis highlighted last time, the horizontal and the vertical aspects of the Cross, is important indeed. But that “being” needs to result into something else. That being in fellowship needs to reflect in the way we approach our lives outside the four walls of the church, it needs to reflect in the way we relate to people outside the formal congregation members. It needs to make a difference to others. Paul says this clearly Romans 2:13 (NLT) For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. James puts it even more bluntly James 1:22-25 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself asserted this after the feet washing act that I referred to earlier John 13:17 (NKJV) If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I have actually looked into a number of translations of this verse, and have found that all translations stress on the “do” part, none of the translations say you will be blessed if you preach about or if you read about it or if you pray about it or if you sing about it. All translations say, you will be blessed if you “do” likewise.
So, are we making a difference where the Lord has placed us? Or are we satisfied with being merely listeners of the word?
Let me close with a quotation from Chris Wright, an evangelical leader of the Lausanne movement and many other evangelical initiatives. “When there is no distinction in conduct between Christians and non-Christians—for example in the practice of corruption and greed, or sexual promiscuity, or rate of divorce, or relapse to pre-Christian religious practice, or attitudes towards people of other races, or consumerist lifestyles, or social prejudice—then the world is right to wonder if our Christianity makes any difference at all. Our message carries no authenticity to a watching world.”
So what does the word “fellowship” in Bangalore Bible Fellowship mean to you this morning? To me it means three things, in summary
Unlimited liability towards my fellow congregation members
Being under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, obeying Him and doing what He did
Making a difference as light and salt in the place where He has placed us.
May I encourage you to please spend the next three minutes noting down your reflections on the paper given to you? Please take that sheet of paper with you and see if we can really make our congregation into a true “fellowship”.
Let us pray!!