Koinonia: The Gift We Hold Together

2012, 3 pp
The word koinonia has rightly become a central term and concept for Mennonite World Conference. In addresses, publications and programmatic efforts, leaders have been nudging the global Anabaptist community to a deeper relationship with each other. Even when we don’t use the word koinonia itself, much of the terminology we use depends on it: meeting needs, mutual encouragement, gift giving and receiving, fellowship, interdependence, solidarity, consensus, communion, community, unity, being “together.”

As used in the Greek New Testament, koinonia and its immediate family of terms do not lend themselves to precise definition. Sometimes their meanings are very ordinary, other times profound to the point of mystery. Together, however, these meanings take on force and depth in shaping our calling to be a community of faith.

The range of meanings extends from koinos (ordinary, profane; Acts 10, 11) to koinonia as “sharing” and “partnership,” whether in labour or money (Philippians, 2 Corinthians 8, 9, Romans 15), and to “solidarity” with each other in times of need (Romans12:13). Going far beyond our ability to comprehend, we are invited to participate in the koinonia of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ( John 17; Philippians 2). The most material and the most spiritual dimensions are celebrated in “communion,” the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10, 11).

Koinonia is the biblical name we give to the loftiest and the same time the most ordinary and practical of concepts. It is found in the nature of the koinonia God gives us, in the incarnation of the Son, and in the blowing of God’s Spirit. Yet the most profound dimensions of koinonia are to be found in the utterly ordinary exercise of it in our communion with God and in the body of Christ. Koinonia is an identity-giving, life-shaping, commitment-forging, and actionprovoking gift of God. We receive it with Christ standing among us and his Spirit enabling us 2 to both receive and exercise this gift.

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