“K” is for Koinonia

Children

Children (Photo credit: antonioperezrio.com)

Today as I write these words, which will post early tomorrow morning, I reflect on how quickly life can change.

Last night my husband and I were enjoying a much-appreciated evening doing simple things together. Close to 11:00 pm we received a phone call which has completely turned our lives and plans around… and yet, it hasn’t.

In the last two weeks we have heard from two of our seven children. Both of these children are grown and are going through situations that are truly catastrophic. Our grandchildren are seriously impacted by these situations. We are seriously impacted by these situations.

Today, instead of doing the various things we had planned we are meeting with government agencies, case workers, interested parties and determining how to best secure a safe situation for four of our 11 grandchildren. I have cried. We have held each other and prayed together. We have drawn on a law enforcement background (my own) and a child advocate services background (my husband’s) to help us and the children.

But the thing that we draw most upon, the thing that is sustaining us now is this indescribable phenomenon represented by this Greek word “koinonia.”

I will quote from Wikipedia here:

The spiritual meaning of koinonia

The word has such a multitude of meanings that no single English word is adequate to express its depth and richness. It is a derivative of koinos, the word for commonKoinonia is a complex, rich, and thoroughly fascinating Greek approach to building community or teamwork.

Koinonia embraced a strong commitment to Kalos k’agathos meaning “good and good”, an inner goodness toward virtue, and an outer goodness toward social relationships. In the context of outer goodness, translated into English, the meaning of koinonia holds the idea of joint participation in something with someone, such as in a community, or team or an alliance or joint venture. Those who have studied the word find there is always an implication of action included in its meaning. The word is meaning-rich too, since it is used in a variety of related contexts.

Sharing

Koinonos means ‘a sharer’ as in to share with one another in a possession held in common. It implies the spirit of generous sharing or the act of giving as contrasted with selfish getting. When koinonia is present, the spirit of sharing and giving becomes tangible. In most contexts, generosity is not an abstract ideal, but a demonstrable action resulting in a tangible and realistic expression of giving.

In classical Greek, koinonein means “to have a share in a thing,” as when two or more people hold something, or even all things, in common. It can mean “going shares” with others, thereby having “business dealings,” such as joint ownership of a ship. It can also imply “sharing an opinion” with someone, and therefore agreeing with him, or disagreeing in a congenial way. Only participation as a contributive member allows one to share in what others have. What is shared, received or given becomes the common ground through which Koinoniabecomes real.

Relationships

Koinonos in classical Greek means a companion, a partner or a joint-owner. Therefore, koinonia can imply an association, common effort, or a partnership in common.” The common ground by which the two parties are joined together creates an aligned relationship, such as a “fellowship” or “partnership”. In a papyrus announcement a man speaks of his brother “with whom I have no koinonia”, meaning no business connection or common interest. In the New Testament, (Luke 5:10) James, John, and Simon are called “partners” (koinonia). The joint participation was a shared fishing business.

Two people may enter into marriage in order to have “koinonia of life”, that is to say, to live together a life in which everything is shared. Koinonia was used to refer to the marriage bond, and it suggested a powerful common interest that could hold two or more persons together.

The term can also relate to a spiritual relationship. In this sense, the meaning something that is held and shared jointly with others for God, speaking to man’s “relationship with God”.Epictetus talks of religion as ‘aiming to have koinonia with Zeus“. The early Christian community saw this as a relationship with the Holy Spirit. In this context, koinonia highlights a higher purpose or mission that benefits the greater good of the members as a whole. The term “enthusiasm” is connected to this meaning of koinonia for it signifies “to be imbued with the Spirit of God in Us.”

To create a bond between comrades is the meaning of koinonia when people are recognized, share their joy and pains together, and are united because of their common experiences, interests and goals. Fellowship creates a mutual bond which overrides each individual’s pride, vanity, and individualism, fulfilling the human yearning with fraternity, belonging, and companionship. This meaning of koinonia accounts for the ease by which sharing and generosity flow. When combined with the spiritual implications of koinonia, fellowship provides a joint participation in God’s graces and denotes that common possession of spiritual values.

Thus early Greco-RomanChristians had a fellowship God, sharing the common experience of joys, fears, tears, and divine glory. In this manner, those who shared believed their true wealth lay not in what they had, but in what they gave to others. Fellowship is never passive in the meaning of koinonia, it is always linked to action, not just being together, but also doing together. With fellowship comes a close and intimate relationship embracing ideas, communication, and frankness, as in a true, blessed interdependent friendship among multiple group members.”

Without a sense of koinonia, my husband and I would be trying to carry the care and responsibility of our caring for our children – and grandchildren – on our own shoulders. We would be over-burdened. We would start out with the best of intentions, but would collapse under the weight of it all. We would crash and burn…. and the children would suffer most.

As it is, we are hurting, but we are not harmed. We dread the process, but embrace the good that comes of and through it. We are not alone.

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10 thoughts on ““K” is for Koinonia

  1. Pingback: “L” is for Lollygagging « Crafty Lady

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