COVER STORY – BLESSINGS OF FELLOWSHIP
“Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ And to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’”
The above passage is the conclusion to one of the most amazing human love stories ever told. God told His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he married a woman named Gomer. She was repeatedly unfaithful to him. She bore him three children but he was not their true father. Yet Hosea forgave her, loved her, and cared for her and her children. After all that, she left him and somehow ended up totally destitute. Hosea, in an amazing act of love, bought her back to be his own wife again and cared for her.
Gomer was a vivid picture of the rebellious people of Israel. They were committing spiritual adultery by worshipping idols instead of the Lord. God had named Gomer’s daughter “Lo-Ruhamah”—No Mercy. He named her second son “Lo-Ammi”—Not My People. After loving and forgiving Israel for several hundred years, God indicated that they were no longer His people and He would not have mercy on them. Without God’s protection, the Assyrians conquered them, scattered them among the nations, and they became destitute. Then, in an amazing act of love, God promised to buy them back to be His people once again.
The story of Gomer and Israel is also our story. The Apostle Peter picks up on this and says to all believers in Christ, “At one time you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. At one time you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10 EHV) We had no rightful claim to God’s love or to be considered His people. However, by an amazing act of love, God bought us back with the lifeblood of His own Son.
Now God addresses us as His true children and calls on us to, “Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ and to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’” This is a simple but beautiful description of our fellowship. God describes us as family. We are brothers and sisters with one another in the faith. Now we are to encourage each other with God’s amazing love.
This is the blessing of our fellowship. When you see a brother or a sister who is troubled by their sin or doubting their position as God’s child, you can call them “Ruhamah”—Mercy is shown. Christ paid for your sins on the cross so that God can show mercy and forgive you. Say to them “Ammi”—Christ bought you back with His own life so that He calls you “My People.”
If you see a brother or a sister straying back into a life of sin, remind that person how much God paid to rescue us from that life. He has made us His own and given us eternal life. Don’t throw it all away by returning to a life of sin again. Show that you are His people with your life.
We do that regularly when we worship together. We confess our sins together and are reassured of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are warned and encouraged, convicted and forgiven with messages from God’s Law and Gospel. But the blessing of our fellowship extends beyond the moments of our worship. We can encourage one another in our daily life.
We can enjoy one another’s company because we are on the same page; we can trust each other. We can freely share our faith with one another without fear and encourage each other along the pathway to eternal life. We can also reassure each other that because we are the “People of God,” God will zealously look after us and care for us. In times of trouble we can remind one another, God is our refuge and strength, turn to Him. Trust in Him! He is our God!
This is the beauty of our fellowship. God’s incredible act of love has brought us together as brothers and sisters so we can live together in love and travel side by side along the road to heaven.
David Reim is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.