And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
― Hebrews 10:24-25
Koinonia: the Greek word relating to fellowship, a collection, joint participation, or more simply, community. The word implies intimacy and cooperation amongst all believers and a love that can only be found in knowing the overpowering love of Jesus Christ.
Christians are called to koinonia, meeting within and outside of houses of worship―physically or virtually, as strangers or intimate friends―to learn the truths of the gospel. God promises His presence in spaces where believers are gathered (Matthew 18:20). In coming together, we recognize that promise, imploring Him to sanctify our hearts through time with our sisters and brothers.
After all, this is why we go to church. We reunite each week, coming from every station of life, to study the Word and to worship His name. We rejoice “since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). We celebrate the glorious truth that we are sojourners in this world, and we wait in anticipation of our true home, where we can be in perfect koinonia with Jesus and with those who believe in Him.
I remember moments in gathering with my Penn classmates as we listened to guest speakers discuss the existence of God, where I was overwhelmed by my own minuteness and brevity before the God of the universe. I remember how sweet it was to hear the sound of voices praising the Lord in unison and singing with joy about the wonders of our Heavenly Father. I remember the feeling of tears escaping from my eyes during worship and of my voice catching, as I am reminded of my Savior upon that tree.
In gathering and worshiping together, we have the opportunity to surround ourselves with those who, like us, have new hearts and yearn to see more of the Lord. In light of our true fallen nature, we must prioritize time with these people so that we might be reminded, and others may be reminded by us, of what a magnificent Kingdom we have been welcomed into. We put ourselves into spaces to be reminded of this, that thanksgiving might flow from remembrance, and that reverence and awe would rightfully follow after that. –Sydney Huang, W’23
From our home at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, we are fortunate enough to have freedom of religion, where we are allowed to gather and worship publicly without hiding our faith. Sadly, that is not possible everywhere. Our brothers and sisters in other countries gather in secret, risking their lives to partake in Biblical community. This should serve as an inspiration to Christians―we have a treasure worth far more than worldly security. Let this also urge us not to take meeting with each other for granted.
When we gather in community, we declare the universal forgiveness that is offered through Jesus’ sacrifice. It is a public recognition that, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or background, Jesus’ love and gift of salvation is a free gift for everyone should they repent and believe (Romans 5:15-18).
In small groups or private conversations, we have the chance to dig deep into the Word, ask questions, search for answers, and share what we feel God has placed on our hearts. As “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) we sharpen one another, reminding each other of obedience and keeping one another accountable in our actions. Pondering over gospel realities together and challenging one another will allow the Lord to refine us. If we remain alone, it is but our own fault, for we were made to sharpen one another. If we desire to be effective instruments, sharp enough to cut and do what we are called to, then we must meet together to share burdens, lament, exhort, advise, and rejoice together in the gospel.
I remember all the times that I came to bible study burdened and weighed down by all the pressures of school, only to find my heart renewed by the faithfulness of my sisters in Christ and encouraged to redirect my mind upward in longing for the comfort of my Heavenly Father.
I forget all too often that I have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken. My fickle little brain runs to and fro, looking for security and comfort in the trivial things of this world. I forget that my citizenship is in the Kingdom where the King of kings and Lord of lords reigns. I am forgetful and ungrateful―my sinful self frequently dances with the idea of treason. I have to battle my unbelief constantly, and for that, I am in desperate need of community. By gathering each week in a small group, I can find solace in the thoughts and perspectives of others and ultimately be driven to the only good and true solace found in Christ’s atoning work.
One of the greatest blessings the Lord gave me my freshman year was the priceless friendship and accountability of my roommate. He certainly knew what He was doing when He allowed us to live together, find a larger Christian community together, and navigate our crazy first year of college together. Without my dear sister by my side, I can only imagine how utterly lost I would have been and tempted to wander down the darker path. Multiple times she has gripped my arm and led me back to the brightly lit path to walk the narrow road together. Sometimes she has done so unknowingly, but most of the time it is because she understands the role that sisters in Christ are to play.
In community, we celebrate each others’ victories and weep for each others’ sufferings (Romans 12:15), just as Jesus did. We are called to “one mind” (1 Peter 3:8) that is, to empathize and to connect in our hearts. In being together, we focus our perspectives through a heavenly lens to remind each other of our security in Jesus Christ and comfort each other in this living hope.
In fellowship with other believers, we are also able to better discern the character of God, teaching each other about the fruits of the Spirit in hopes of making ourselves more like Him. The relationships formed amongst Christians can allow us to exhibit at least a fraction of the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience that Jesus displayed in His earthly ministry and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Let us practice these virtues in community and put our faith into action, so that we may reflect the love of God more brightly and endure even when, and especially when, the world is against us.
We strive to embody koinonia here on earth, remembering full well that it is not possible except by the grace and power of the One who has delivered us.