I want to muse a little longer on this subject of koinonia (see my 10/4/13 post). [By the way, in my last post, I defined koinonia as a partnering-sharing-fellowshipping-stewarding-partaking-companionship relationship.] Understanding koinonia puts a whole new light on commands such as 'love one another deeply, comfort one another, carry one another's burdens.' It is more than just ministering to another person--it is partaking, companioning, stewarding, etc. life together. Our koinonia relationship with God lived out in koinonia relationship with other believers.
Cornerstone gathered last week as a church (or at least a portion of it) to discuss protecting, nurturing, and growing koinonia relationships in our body. Virtually everyone in attendance has had a 'bad' experience with other believers or churches in the past--resulting in some break in the relationship, a koinonia break. For some, it resulted in strained or estranged relationships; for others, it even resulted in leaving a particular church body.
In my last posting, I spoke about the role of forgiving others--otherwise our koinonia relationship with God is affected. The challenge in all of our lives is not only learning to forgive but living out what we learn. How many of us when we think about a past hurt still get a knot in our stomach? or thoughts of vengeance? or feelings of despair or disappointment or anger? How many of us, when we see 'that person' in the grocery store, try to avoid that person by going down another aisle, or at least pretending to be interested in reading the sodium level on that can of green beans as they pass by? How many of us have learned to be civil on the outside, guarding our tongues and demeanor, while the inside is cringing?
If any of that applies to you, you still may have a dark corner of unforgiveness in your life. I write that last sentence with an 'Ouch!' because I thought I had no unforgiveness until I immersed myself in this word. How subtle it is to accept, and even embrace, unforgiveness, especially when the hurt/sin was completely uncalled for and patently unfair.
The group from church discussing the subject of protecting koinonia made some excellent observations I'd like to share with you:
1. We must be a people who learn how to not easily take offense at what others say or do. If we learn how to automatically forgive and let go, the seed of bitterness of unforgiveness never is sown. [This also applies to not taking on someone else's offense.]
2. For an offense that cannot be let go (either because of the nature of the sin, the effect on the sinning brother/sister, or the lingering effect on you or the Body of Christ), we must practice Matt. 18:15-20 on a timely basis. Failure to do so, regardless of the reasoning, affects koinonia. And the enemy has a field day!
3. If we have failed to practice #2 above on a timely basis, then our responsibility is to forgive and let go. Scripturally, we have no wiggle room for continuing in a state of even passive unforgiveness. [The appropriateness of going back to practice #2 after an extended period of time has passed should be carefully considered and determined on a case-by-case basis. This is where godly counsel should be sought.]
God takes koinonia seriously, doesn't He? Wouldn't it be great to be part of a church who could experience ever-increasing koinonia--even in the midst of all of our messy relationships? Easy to preach about--much harder to live out. In fact, I would say it is impossible to live out without the Holy Spirit's empowerment. May our lives be evident of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27)--and then koinonia will naturally happen.