William Barclay once remarked that the fullness of God's Kingdom is every tongue, every tribe, and every nation singing the praise of God in unison. I cannot fathom a more profound image to represent the kingdom, the full Community of God.
The Greek word for Community is koinonia. Pronounced just like it looks, "coin-o-nee-ah." The first part of the word is the essential clue to understanding the intent of the word. Before Paypal and credit cards with Near Field Devices that let you pay with a wave of the card in front of the machine, there was an common odd form of metallic currency, called "coins." They were especially common amongst older gentlemen who would stand and shake their pockets while waiting on their wives in department stores. I am not sure if it was some sort of territorial signal to ward off other males of the species, or just a sound that kept them from falling asleep standing up. Little research exists.
These "coins," as they were known, came in differing denominations, and one could pay more than the value of an item and receive back the difference between the value of the item and the amount paid, in coins. Coins were quite common, and found themselves in such random places as the ashtray of an automobile or under couch cushions or underneath the pillows of sleeping, toothless children (before inflation happened and paper currency became the standard). It is hard to reach back and understand such a complex and unfamiliar world in which "coins" were common.
But imagine a world, if you will, where everyone has at least one thing in common, and not that one session of holding a Coke and singing in perfect harmony. What if we held a common, lasting belief in God? The same God? What if he were the commonality of our community, the center of it, if you will.
An overarching reading of Paul's letters to his churches through the coastal mediterranean gives us a glimpse of that type of world. He begins and ends each letter by expressing his joy in their belief, usually before offering well-timed exhortation to make changes. Common faith brings joy and peace.
Koinonia is centered not only on having commonalities but risking through a common investment. In Malachi, a passage urges a young man to "not break faith with the wife of his youth." The Hebrew equivalent of koinonia, chabar, is used here and elsewhere (in reference to thieves who had thrown their lot in together with one another) to describe the mutual investment they share. Just like a financial investment, these groups of people have tied their fate and future to that of the other. They have chosen to risk, make themselves vulnerable and depend on the other. Sounds just like marriage, huh?
But we obviously don't have everything in common in marriage. Different hobbies and personalities, different family backgrounds and family narratives to overcome, and different energy levels and ways to view the world or interact with it. But in the face of these differences, we often overlook the commonality which enables us to see them as dynamic blessings to celebrate and explore, instead of lament. The commonality of a God who can bring together even the most varied personalities, and enable to love one another.
When we abandon this common "tie which binds" our "cord of three strands" is not strong and cannot withstand the slings and arrows of those "powers and principalities" which "roam about seeking whom they will devour" in order to "steal, kill and destroy" our contentment in our marriage. Those phrases are direct quotes from scripture that I "have hidden in my heart in order that [I] may not sin against God." (another one). You will find, as we discussed in Week 6 that "Words Matter," that having ready arrows to launch at the enemy who is attacking your friend, will enable you to grow closer to the one with whom you share more in common with than you may care to admit.
Our "Cord of Three Strands" experience gave us a glimpse into a true Community of Faith. While we attended a large church, we spoke openly that our Adult Bible Fellowship (The Cord) was our true church, in whom we placed our trust and dependence. We would meet together and share our leftovers, in order that we might have a full meal between us. We trusted each other with our children and secrets, our hopes and dreams, and the divine promptings from The Lord, which were (at that moment) still unconfirmed. I saw what the original gathering of Christ-followers looked like as they "met together and had everything in common." We will speak more in Week 10: Synergy that "none of us is as strong as all of us," and a Christ-centered community is the most powerful source of encouragement and strength that a growing marriage can have. Notice I did not say a community that claims to be Christ-centered, but one that actually is, and you will have to "test the spirits and see." (Yeah, I know, more scripture, sorry).
My prayer for you is that you would begin a litmus-test of the communities in which you live, move and have your being. Are they Christ-centered, or is there room for you to not be ashamed of your beliefs and Christ-following life? Not all of your communities must be faith-centered, indeed, you must move in circles where you have the ability to influence others who have no faith (Matthew 28). Is your marriage taking time to celebrate and grow your spiritual intimacy as common followers of the same God? Do you love your spouse as a "co-heir" of the kingdom, as an adopted son or daughter of God? Begin to engage this aspect of your relationship, and invite God to love His son or daughter through you in the manner that He best sees fit. Your sexual intimacy is intricately linked to your spiritual intimacy, and you will experience fruits in both areas, because both are the greatest areas of vulnerability, with the highest return of exponential reward and connectivity. Just Saying.
Have a blessed week and remember that "if two lay down together, they can keep warm. A Cord of Three Strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes)