A foreign country. A foreign tongue. It’s Sunday and the church gathers. Entering into a large ornate church with balconies and stained glass windows. A greeting at the door and a feeble gesture in return, spoken in English. A regular picks up the sound of English and comes over and greets the visitor. In broken English, “Come sit with me. I translate for you.”
The singing begins and it is a familiar hymn but being sung in another language. How beautiful it sounds! It is easy to join in and sing in English or in tongues for those songs not known. A warming delight.
Then the greeting time. The translator whispering quickly as the words are spoken from the front. A pause by the translator. Suddenly the whole church stands, turns, looks up at this visitor and gives a rowdy round of applause. The overwhelming sense of welcome is apparent. The confirming translation, “Welcome my friend, my brother.”
How amazing is it to be given the “right hand of fellowship“. All they knew of their visitor was that he was a fellow Christian, was visiting from a foreign place and was able to join in as the songs sung were in common. It was apparent, he loved the Lord and they did too…even though their language, expression and even methods of doing so was vastly different.
Paul experienced this when he went to Jerusalem:
James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. Galatians 2:9
How important it is as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus to be accepting of one another and to extend the “right hand of friendship”, wherever and whenever it is possible.
We can even do that here, in our own city or even closer to home in our own suburb. When we meet one who attends a local Christian church different to our own, do we try to compare whose church is better, or do we accept the differences between the two and acknowledge the common aspects between us?
Is not our commonality found in the One who invited us into His Kingdom – Christ Jesus?
The Bible is clear, we will be known for the love we have for one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Have you given, or experienced, the “right hand of friendship”?