I stood at the bottom of the hill watching my friend fly down the zip-line, shrieking with glee. I had to admit the ride looked fun, but it wasn’t just a matter of getting hooked up and sliding down. Between me and the zip-line stood a maze of nets, tightropes, and swinging podiums that all looked very, very high. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be part of this particular team-building exercise. Just looking at the swaying ropes had my heart pounding. What if I got up there and froze? Part of me wanted to try, but fear kept my feet glued to the ground.
Fear threatens koinonia. There is power in the fellowship of believers, but fear keeps us from exercising the full measure of that power. Fear isolates us. Fear makes us respond out of self-protection instead of brotherly love. Fear keeps us playing it safe instead of leaping into the risks of faith.
Fear and koinonia can’t co-exist. There are three reasons why:
Fear kills koinonia because it makes us choose isolation over fellowship.
Koinonia is the intimate sharing of ourselves with one another in the body of Christ. It’s an all-in kind of relationship; the kind that isn’t afraid to admit to weakness, to ask for help, or to beg forgiveness. Koinonia happens when we are not afraid to see and to let ourselves be seen. It’s born when we wholeheartedly give ourselves to one another and to the Lord as we pursue his kingdom together.
This kingdom community comes at a cost. We are redeemed, but we are all still sinful people. Koinonia means that we rub up against one another’s jagged edges. Sometimes we polish one another, but sometimes we get hit by flying chips of rock. When we’re wounded, our natural result is often to hide. We do this by pulling away from the pain or by putting up masks. We hide our imperfections and conceal our broken places. No one can wound us, but our isolation means that no one can heal us either. Fear-driven isolation stifle koinonia.
Fear kills koinonia because it makes us choose conflict over connection.
Sometimes fear makes us choose flight. At other times it makes us stand and fight. Fear-based conflict comes in different ways–a stiff-necked determination to not let ourselves get hurt; the subconscious decision to get mad rather than to be in pain; the deep-set need to control everything and everyone around us so that nothing can get close enough to inflict pain. We pick fights rather than face the issues and choose to remain in conflict rather than make meaningful connections.
Conflict doesn’t have to kill koinonia. When it’s handled well, working through conflict strengthens relationships. Forgiving and being forgiven is at the heart of koinonia, but fear keeps us from getting to that point. When we choose the armor of conflict to protect ourselves, koinonia slowly fades away. It’s hard to connect with a person who bristles like a porcupine at the first whisper of disagreement. Choosing conflict over connection kills koinonia.
Fear kills koinonia because it makes us choose comfort over challenge.
Faith implies risk. If we could handle it on our own, we wouldn’t need faith. Faith is stepping out of the boat and trusting that Jesus will keep you from sinking. It’s believing that God is bigger than the giant, that all things really are possible with God.
Fear keeps us from choosing faith. Instead of stepping out into the challenges of adventure with God, we stay where it’s comfortable. Safe. Secure. When we stay in those sheltered places where we can pretend we have it all together, we kill koinonia. Koinonia blossoms in our dependence on one another. It flourishes when we see God do things through our fellowship we could never do on our own. Without challenge, we can’t have koinonia.
Here’s the good news: love is the answer to fear.
God is love (1 John 4:16). Everything God is and does flows out of his love. It was love that spurred God to create; love that didn’t abandon us in our sin; love that held Jesus to the cross so that we might be redeemed. God loves us. And because of his love, we don’t have to fear punishment. The blood of Christ has covered our sins. If we have surrendered to King Jesus, we are forgiven. Washed clean. God’s love purges fear from our hearts. When we know how much God loves us, we don’t fear him any longer.
Knowing God’s love frees us from the fear of loving others. When God’s love wrecks us for the things of this world, his love spills out from our hearts. Our desire to bring others into the kingdom outweighs our fear of rejection. We no longer fear having our weaknesses exposed because we have experienced God’s renewing strength. God heals our broken places, and we reach out to draw others into his healing embrace.
When fear drives us apart, it’s a sign that we need to press in to Him. Experiencing God’s love together casts out fear. That’s the power of koinonia.
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