The first use of the Greek term koinonia in the New Testament is found in the book of Acts 2:42,44-45, where a description is given of the everyday life shared by the early followers of Jesus:
The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts.
Koinonia is a word complex and rich with meaning, difficult to translate into English. Yes, it is community; but it is so much more.
It is sharing of tangible goods so no one has need. It is sharing of self, the forming of relationships such that self – opinions, agendas, positions – never come first – in fact are never at issue. God and others’ needs come first always. There is an ease and joy of generosity, of giving grace, of encouragement. It is an active community, forming common unity. It is inviting everyone to the table, ensuring no one is left hungry or thirsty; no one is left standing outside the door.
What is this Common Unity? Christ’s love.
How is common unity afforded? With the intention to promote dialogue and discussion, not dominance, drama or disapproval.
With the commitment to provide safety inside the all-embracing covenant of Christ.
With an invitation to take a seat at the table, particularly if you have played musical chairs in a religious arena where there are never enough chairs to go around.
There is something missing from koinonia. There is no finger-pointing, no condemnation, no gossip. When Scripture is read or studied, it is for the uplifting message it brings.
When you see or hear Bible verses I pray you never, ever see or hear them used as weapons. Ever. They are not intended to be used as rules or regulations. They are intended to be written and spoken as reminders of the voice of Jesus; the voice of love, mercy and grace. Because that’s how Jesus read them. That’s how he intended them to be used. That’s what his parables were all about.
It was Jesus who said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’”
Jesus interpreted for the priests what God had told the Old Testament prophet Hosea: mercy is more important than following religious rituals or law. Community and relationship; love, mercy and compassion are always more important than the letter of law.
True koinonia embraces what Jesus embraced. True koinonia welcomes all with hospitality and grace. True koinonia understands we have each been made a masterpiece, by God, and He will continue to perfect us and love us unconditionally until we see Him face to face.
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