Thursday, September 9, 2010

Koinonia and Social Statements

I recently finished reading the ELCA's Draft Social Statement on Genetics (found here). It's broad document, like most social statements, that seeks to provide a biblical and ethical framework for discussions around the topic of genetics. When people hear the term genetics, they may believe the conversation is linked to heritability within human or animal populations, but the conversations around genetic research stretch into farming, global communication, insurance, social service programs, cloning, artificial reproductive technology, food distribution, medicine... and on and on.

As with most of the ELCA's social statements, the draft social statement on genetics offers a few strongly worded passages on the church's stands and, also, much acknowledgement of the reality of sin in the world and in our lives.

At the conclusion of the statement (p. 35) is this passage:

Since the earliest days, Christians have claimed to be part of a koinonia. They have understood this Greek word to carry dynamic and layered meanings of "mutuality," "fellowship," "community" and "union." Together these meanings suggest a fundamental commitment to shared participation and a "holding in common."

Christian mutuality (koinonia) is not a goal or an end in itself but the means and evidence of being held as one in Christ while sharing in God's love for each other. Such mutuality is grounded in God's love for each other. Such mutuality is grounded in God's grace to each member, even though all fall short of deserving it. God's love is the basis, model, source and motivation for mutuality in the Christian church (John 13:31-35).

Of everything that I read in this statement, these are the paragraphs that will stick with me, especially the difference between community as means and community as an end.

I often hear of calls to make church like it used to be. I realize this comes out of people's longing for a time they felt they understood, with less change, with more familiarity. We frequently try to envision a future for a congregation that looks much like our not-too-distant past without really considering the way the world and we have changed between now and then. Through that kind of goal-setting, our hope is achieving the community we once knew or thought we did.

However, if we recognize koinonia, or Christian community, as our means, rather than our end goal, it changes how we look at our church life. If we understand that we are called together to support one another, in certainty and uncertainty, with our eyes toward the fulfillment of our faith as the end goal. The existence of our community of faith is evidence of the continued work of the Holy Spirit, granting and stirring up faith, and we discover and celebrate that evidence together.

This sharing in community is what keeps us going. It is what's kept the church going for, lo, these 1980 years or so as we await the return of Christ, in whom is our beginning and our end.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. That tie is koinonia and it lasts and keeps us going, through all kinds of changes, until the end comes.

1 comment:

Cookie said...

I enjoy reading your posts. I'm still working on discovering God and defining my relationship with Him. I'm not there yet, but I'm looking for answers from many sources. It's nice reading a post from a Pastor. It feels more intimate than a sermon, as important as those are.