Christian Koinonia, The Collision Of People In Christ

You may be saying, "Koinowhat? It sounds like you are speaking a foreign language."  Yes, I am.  Koinonia is a Greek word from the New Testament that is often translated and understood as "fellowship."  Fellowship is good, is it not?  It is good to get together for a Barbecue.  It is good to hang out with friends and so forth.  However, is this how the New Testament uses this word of "Koinonia?"

First, let's talk about fellowship.  The idea of fellowship is one where we all gather together to simple, "be."  It is a gathering of people into a friendly association with similar personal interests. A person tends to seek out other individuals that have the same similar interests as they do.  Besides, as human beings we certainly need interaction with one another, we need fellowship.  We are programmed to be in community.

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Most of us are familiar with the movie "Castaway."  In this movie Tom Hanks finds himself stranded on an island all by himself for years.  Lacking "fellowship" and a friend, he finds companionship with Wilson.  Wilson is not a resident of the island or even a person.  Rather, Wilson was a volleyball that washed up on the shore of the island.  Tom Hanks drew a face on the volleyball and would have conversations with the volleyball face, Wilson, in order to keep his own sanity while being deserted on the island.  We simply need fellowship we are not designed to be totally alone without community.

So, is this what the scripture means when it talks about fellowship?  Does the scripture call us to come together for the sake of simply coming together?  It seems to me that there is so much more to this idea of Koinonia in the New Testament than friends hanging out over their own personal interests.  Let's be honest, if Christian fellowship is simply homogeneous people coming together, then what is the difference between Christian fellowship and the fellowship at a country club or YMCA?

The idea of Koinonia is an idea that can be summarized as an event that happens around something.  While our view of fellowship typically happens over personal interests, Koinonia is a gathering and an event that occurs based on something outside of one's personal experience or tastes.  In other words, Koinonia happens when people participate together in something external, something that pulls various individuals together into a common bond.  Christian Koinonia happens as God calls various people of various backgrounds with various ethnicities to participate and share in the common yet uniquely powerful Gospel.  That is right, Christian Koinonia has the idea of different personalities and different people colliding together around and in the person of Christ.

What does this mean for the church?

First, it means that there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.  Christian Koinonia means that we participate and do life together within God's story. We share together the common message of the Gospel and the Sacraments - for us.  We do not have a personal Jesus nor can we "do" Koinonia alone.  In the words of Jeff Kloha, "...together we share in something that is common: Jesus Christ and life in him."[1]

Secondly, what this means for the church is that regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, background, experiences, etc... that we are grafted into the same Koinonia.  Christ and His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins is what joins the church together.  Koinonia must have an object, and that object for the church is Christ and His Word and Sacraments - for us.  Just think about all the people, who often don't have anything in common, that collide together in the person of Christ, that collide together in the waters of the baptismal font, that collide together at the Lord's Table.  In the words of Jeff Kloha again, " the Body of Christ our relationships to each other are defined not socially, economically, racially, or on any other basis other than Christ."[2] 

Finally, but not least, in Christian Koinonia we are called together into Christ, we are assimilated into the grand meta-narrative.  In Christian Koinonia an eternal assimilation happens as "our" unique personal stories are assimilated into a grand and divine story; God's story of redemption in Jesus. God’s story doesn’t become a part of our story; rather we are assimilated into the grand meta-narrative of God’s redemption. As members of the church we join together "into" the bride of Christ; as common sinners with a common bridegroom, Christ.  Christ doesn't become fragmented in us.  

My friends, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into participation together in His Son, Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1:9)  May we find rest and unity as we collide together and into this Christian Koinonia.    


[1]  Jeff Kloha, "Koinonia and Life Together in the New Testament (Concordia Journal 38, 2012), 24-36.
[2]  Ibid.

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