Recently the ANEW leadership team had an opportunity to meet together for our leader’s retreat. It was an absolutely fantastic weekend filled with personal sharing times, vision sharing times, prayer and lots and lots of laughs. I had been looking forward to this weekend for months, not just because I didn’t have to cook, clean or counsellor on teenage drama for a couple of days. But because we all get to hang out altogether (well almost all of us) for the weekend and for me, weekends like this are few and far between.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do have friends but my best friends live miles away (one of them over 7000 miles). I also have friends locally, but I don’t seem to have a lot of local ‘let your hair down’ kind of friends. Friends that you can really be yourself with. Even though some of the team haven’t known each other all that long, it just seems to be a group where I feel like I can be really be myself. With no pretence and no judgement. Some of us probably let our hair down a little too much – not mentioning any names.
So I was trying to come up with a word that really sums up what that means. Anne of Green Gables call it Bosom Friends, but I didn’t think that had quite the right connotations in this day and age. Homies or Homegirls was another idea – but my daughters assured me that I couldn’t quite pull that one off. One of the online thesaurus’ suggested posse, mob, gang – but none of them really clicked, the closest I got to a word to describe what I feel like our team has is, community.
Given the fact that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, I decided to look up the Greek word for community, just out of interest. And I discovered the word, Koinonia. But as is often the case with Greek, it conveys so much more than our English words do. Because Koinonia means friendship, fellowship, but it means more than that it describes an intimate connection between people. In the New Testament it is used as a term to mean a connection that occurs first as we are connected to Jesus and then because of our connection with Jesus, the intimate connection we share with other people who also experience that connection to Jesus. And I thought that was a beautiful way to describe what we have.
I think it also aptly describes the relationship that Jesus shared with his disciples. I mean they were literally connected to Jesus – but it was an intimate relationship – (well maybe with the exception of Judas). They were his homeboys, his posse and he too knew what it was like to really look forward to hanging out with them. Luke 22:14-15 says “When the hour had come, Jesus reclined at the table with His apostles. And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before My suffering.”
Eagerly desired, another translation says fervently. Jesus knew what was ahead, but before he got there – he really just wanted to hang out with his mates for the night – and share Koinonia.
John paints a perfect picture of this in his account of the Last Supper. The first thing that you cannot miss is his love for them. This is the theme that permeates the discourse John 13:1b “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end”; Jn 15:12 “Love each other as I have loved you”; Jn 15:13 “greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
He shows his love through service. In Jn 13:4-5 we see him wash his disciple’s feet, in an act of pure humility.
He offers them peace; Jn 14:27 “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you”, Jn 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.
He offers them hope; Jn 16:22 “Now is a time for grief, but I will see you again and there will be joy and no one can take that away”.
He encourages them; Jn 15:4-5 Remain in me and I’ll remain in you – no branch can bear fruit alone. He reassures them that he chose them (Jn 15:16) and appointed them to bear fruit.
What a beautiful example of Koinonia. Not only does Jesus model Koinonia in the intimate relationship that he had with his disciples and the intimate relationship, but he invites us to share the same intimacy with Him. Through His sacrifice on the cross he invites us to call Him our Saviour, our Lord and friend. If a weekend of Koinonia with good friends is so amazing, I can only imagine what an eternity of Koinonia with Jesus will be like.
Shannon Perrett is a Anew Conference Team member and Speaker. She lives with her family in Mareeba where they serve with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship).
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