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. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew so we don’t see the word appear there. However, the concept of koinania is definitely a desired component in the relationship between God and humanity (Ex. 25:1-9), and between people (Ps. 133:1-3).
Since it is written in Greek, one would expect the word koinania to appear throughout the New Testament, but surprisingly, 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 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. In today’s technologically saturated world we have a tendency to isolate ourselves from one another. Busy schedules, text messaging, work demands and commuting pull us away from coming together rather than leaving us more time to be with our fellow Christians. Times being as hard as they are, we need the mutual support and encouragement that we receive from being together. More importantly when we are gathered together, Christ is in the midst of us (Mt. 18:20)!
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 that fellowship certainly overpowered their taste buds that day! Are you in koinania? If not, you might be missing out on some awesome potato salad and fun stories to go with it!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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