Agape, like small group Bible studies, youth groups and Sunday school classes are all grounded in the Biblical principal of “koinania”, a Greek word which simply means to share in, fellowship with or participate together. Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew we don’t see the word appear there, however, the concept of koinania is present in the relationship between God and humanity. While in classical Greek this word was used to apply to things held in common, Genesis pictures this aspect in a negative light when it records the rupture of fellowship with God followed by the loss of unity among humans (Gen. 3-4). Although sin broke the fellowship between God and humans, God's activity in forgiving, saving and preserving did not cease. Through covenants with Abraham, the people of Israel, and David, God in His mercy bridged the gulf between Himself and humankind.
Since it is written in Greek, one would expect the word koinania to appear throughout the New Testament, but surprisingly, the word koinania is absent from the Gospels. However it does occur 13 times in the writings of Paul. Of course the most well known illustration of koinania appears in Acts 4:32-37. In this passage Luke records a picture of the early church’s practice of sharing their goods among the believing community and their devotion to being together. We are always impressed by their unity, but we often forget that in Acts 2:42-47 koinania was an essential part of a life of worship. The unity of their fellowship proved God was in the midst of them. When Paul uses the word koinania in his letters he never uses this word in a secular sense. It is always in a religious context. For Paul koinania refers strictly to the relation of believers who share a faith in Christ (1 Cor. 1:9, 10:16; 2 Cor. 6:14; 8:4; 13:14, 17; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 3:9; Phil. 1:5) and the kingdom activities of those who belong to Him (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:13; Phil. 2:1, 3:10; Phile. 1:6; Heb. 13:16; 1 Jn. 1:3, 6-7).
Jesus may not have taught specific lessons on the subject of koinania but He certainly modeled it with the disciples. Not too long ago it was easy in today’s technologically saturated world to isolate ourselves from one another. Busy schedules, text messaging, work demands and commuting pulled us away from coming together and we often came up with excuses for not finding the time to be with fellow Christians. Covid 19 changed all that. It forced us to recognize how important the mutual support and encouragement that we receive from being together helps us to cope and get through life’s difficulties which were especially prevalent during the initial restrictions and loss of both life and freedom in the early days of dealing with the virus. Thankfully many churches found creative ways to put the technology that once separated us to work at keeping us together. More importantly, one of the greatest aspects of koinania is that when we are gathered together, Christ is in the midst of us (Mt. 18:20) and although viewing faces on Zoom or other social platforms was not exactly the same as being in the same room, we still experienced and are experiencing koinania in this way!
At the end of my freshman year at Bethany College, Agape held a picnic. I told everyone that my mother’s recipe for potato salad was the best in the world and I was assigned the task of making it for the entire group. I called my mother, got the recipe, and set about making the potato salad. On the day of the picnic everyone raved about the taste and consumed the entire bowl. But something was terribly wrong in my opinion. I’d never seen my mother’s version look so brown, or taste so crunchy. Yet my friends insisted it was perfect! So afterwards I called my mother. I told her I chopped the potatoes, celery, and hard-boiled eggs and put them in the bowl. I mixed the mayo and the milk and then blended it together. Why did it turn out so brown and so crunchy? “Did you cook the potatoes?” my mother asked. “Oh, you have to cook the potatoes?!” was my reply. I don’t know if anyone ever figured out I’d fed them raw potatoes, but the sweetness of koinania certainly overpowered their taste buds that day! Are you in koinania (virtual or otherwise)? If not, you might be missing out on some awesome potato salad and fun stories to go with it!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre