In Philippians 1:3-5, the apostle Paul writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…
In these words, we find an expression of Paul’s gratitude for the Philippians. One of the things Paul emphasizes is the church’s partnership with him. The word partnership is translated here from the Greek work koinōnia. This word is also commonly translated as “community.” And what koinōnia means, is a genuine, heartfelt partnership, one where hearts and lives are woven together. For the church, that which binds us together is Christ Jesus and the love we’ve received through him – and then pass on to others.
Community is an essential aspect of our growth in faith through Christ. Community is where we find common goals and ideas, but also where we find strength and love. Our spirituality is nurtured in the community of faith. Growth in our spirituality, in our relationship to Jesus is not easily carried out absent a community of faith. St. John of the Cross once wrote, “The soul that is alone and without others is like a lone burning coal; it will grow colder rather than hotter.” Jesus is the source of our love, and love is best lived out in community – in partnership.
Being in community allows us to give love and to receive love. To learn love, and to let love be an overflowing part of our lives. This is why community, partnership, koinōnia is so essential. We cannot grow well in isolation. Growth requires love, and love requires koinōnia. The late Henri Nouwen, a priest, theologian, and writer whose wisdom I have cherished, once wrote, “Community is, first of all, a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another.” May the love in our hearts overflow into the world around us.