Have fellowship with one another. (I John 1:7)
The honcho of a company or crew is its boss. That’s as true in Japan as in America, for this word comes straight from that land, with no need of translation. And what about the term, macho? Even if you insist you don’t know any Spanish, you probably would use this word to describe someone full of aggressive masculine pride. Koinonia is another one of these words which, although belonging to another language, is used often enough in English conversation, at least in certain circles, to be adopted as part of the common vocabulary. But of course fellowship, the English translation of the Greek koinonia, is the far more common term. Fellowship is one of those Bible words, like grace and faith and love and hope, that is so colorfully rich in nuance of meaning that it far surpasses what some dictionaries – or Bible teachers! – might reveal. But also like those words, fellowship has been dumbed down in its meaning by widespread generic use. Commonality leads commonness. And, because “familiarity breeds contempt,” many Christians, especially those who consider themselves above average in spiritual maturity, tend to miss the deeper beauty, and downplay the crucial importance, of fellowship, even as they mis-define its meaning. There’s an unfortunate human tendency to disregard –- even hold in contempt –- what we do not fully understand. And so it would be very helpful for us to learn the meaning of the Greek word, koinonia, when talking about fellowship. We are far more apt to refine our definition and application of a word we discover to be the very word used by our Lord and His contemporaries. When they said koinonia they meant, “sharing in common.” For us that might include potlucks and picnics, games and get-togethers, and coffee and conversation, but oh, it goes so much further than that! Koinonia is also sometimes translated “communion” in our English Bible, depending on the context. Just as intimacy is the end for which acquaintanceship is only the beginning, so is communion miles deeper than communication in the measurement of relationships. Two workmates can have fellowship down at the water cooler, but we reserve koinonia to describe two Christians struggling together under one load down on their knees, or a congregation sharing in common the stress and distress of one of their number who has come to the end of his rope, and hope -- by gathering groceries, providing transportation, or helping with the utility bill. Maybe this is why koinonia is also sometimes translated “contribution” or “provision,” the practical outcome of true Christian fellowship (see Romans 15:26). There are never enough “Koinonia Christians” to go around, while even one “Lone Ranger Christian” may be one too many!
Bits & Pieces from Japan
7 years ago