Cliques and Koinonia

I hate cliques.  I hate them so much.  I hate them even more because I’ve been a part of them.  It’s galling to realize you’re in one of the groups you’ve always secretly condemned – the group that stands off by itself, silently discouraging all contact.  It’s not like you have to be best friends with everybody, but it’s just so incredibly easy to gravitate to the people you know, with whom you’re comfortable.

And only to them.  The rest can fend for themselves.

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

The same mind.  United in spirit.  One purpose.  How do we reconcile this?  It grieves me immensely when I see the church so full of cliques and superficial friendships, when I look at this verse, and I see what it’s supposed to be.  But it’s so impossible for us. What can we do?  All we are is human.

But the One within us is not human.

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

They could have fellowship (Greek koinonia) because of what they were proclaiming – fellowship with God, and with those to whom they proclaimed it.  Who is “we,” and what is “we” proclaiming?  “We” is John the Beloved and all the other apostles.  And what they are proclaiming is the greatest truth of all, “the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (John 1:2) 

We can have fellowship, because we have life.  We’ve been saved from the hopeless, hateful darkness of our sin.  For the first time, we have meaning.  Now, we have something meaningful around which to fellowship.  We’re sons and daughters of God!

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.”

The glory which He has given us is His love.  That unimaginable love that died for us, that humbled itself in obedience to the point of death.  And He has given it to us!  We actually are capable of love – true, sacrificial love, the love that will give itself up – through Him.  There is more in store for us than shallow conversations and exclusive, self-serving cliques.

This love is only possible through abiding in Him.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)

And abiding in Him takes place when we are so full of His word that our thoughts, our actions, our words, all stem from His truth and His love.  That’s why we have to be in His word.  We have to study it, memorize it, meditate on it.

I think very often our churches – more specifically our youth groups – lose this.  We content ourselves with games and activities and conversations about the newest movie.  Those things are good; but they shouldn’t be all.  We ignore the shallowness and the cliques, or we’re just afraid to go against the status quo.  This is wrong.  This is sin.

What do you do about it?  Where do you start?  Invite some friends to a Bible study?  Ask them how their time in the word has been?  Make music, write something?  Honestly, I don’t fully know; I’m still figuring it out myself.  Maybe all of the above.  For me it takes the form of writing a book, but I want to begin with my own friends, my own social circle.  Maybe it just begins with a question – “What have you been reading lately?”

But start with yourself.  Spend time in the Scriptures every day.  Search them, pray for God to open the eyes of your heart to see His goodness and glory and beauty and holiness.  Let His word overflow into the lives of those around you, and pray for Him to use you in the lives of your friends, in your church.  And pray for a miracle; because isn’t that what love is?

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