This post was first published on my new blog: Rock and Refuge.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
These verses bring us our second reason that we need to stand together as Christians: So we don't fear. (You can see the previous post here).
Paul is very honest about the fact that if we are Christians we will be persecuted. We will face opponents and we will face hardships because of our faith in Jesus as both saviour and Lord. And the truth is these hardships and this opposition can be demoralising. It can be scary. It can throw us off track and make us want to forsake Christ like Peter did in order to save ourselves.
But when we stand together with other Christians it becomes easier to persevere. Fellowship with other Christians who are also suffering should be like a safe haven to us. A place where we can just rest and recuperate. Where we are surrounded by people we trust. People who will support and love us, who will not throw stones at us like the world does, but who will help shield us and comfort us from the persecution that we face. People who will act like penguins in the cold - working together to shelter one another against the cold outside.
But the truth us that although Christian community should be like this, often it is now. Often we Christians don't care for each other as they should. We don't stop to make sure the other person is alright. We don't take the time to comfort those who are fearful. And as a result when one individual faces persecution, hardship or fear they can often feel at least as if there is no one to help them.
Isolation is one of the things Satan tries to convince us of and to destroy us with - and that's why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him,firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
As Christians who suffer, we can trust that other Christians are also suffering. But on the flip-side of that, we need to be honest with one another so that we don't have to battle alone. Because battling alone is a sure way to fall into the trap of fear, and it is far easier to give up in hard times when it seems no one else is interested in helping you through it. As Christians, we need to stand together - working first to serve God, and because of that we need to love each other dearly, because we know that "perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18).
So here's three questions for you: How are you going at standing together with other Christians? How are you going with loving one another and being honest with others about your struggles? How are you going at comforting those around you who are suffering for their faith?
We will suffer for Christ. The question is, will we try to battle it out alone in the harsh and bitter cold? Or will we huddle together like penguins and comfort one another, pointing one another to the glorious promises of Christ, and to the marvellous fact that he has taken our sin and will return to bring us into glory?