Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spending Some Time with St. Paul


I've been teaching the past five weeks on the Apostle Paul, especially focusing on Romans, Philippians, Galatians, and 1 & 2 Corinthians. I've struggled with any concluding remark that might do him some measure of justice.

Well, I failed at that task, but there is one aspect of his life that struck me--that he loved to be in "partnership (Greek, koinonia) in the gospel" (Philippians 1:5) with all kinds of people--Timothy, Lydia, Epaphroditus, Luke, etc., etc. As the great New Testament commentator, F.F Bruce, put it: Paul loved the "syn" prefix in Greek, which means "with" or "co." So Paul spoke of "co-workers" and "fellow-soldiers."

I wonder: Are we, as Christians in the United States--who prize our individualism--apt to do the same?

4 comments:

John said...

set aside the obvious politicalization of faith in the u.s. (you ~did~ specify "u.s."). and, on that level myself, i have no sense of "syn" with many others.

however, i do feel "syn" on a local scale. in a way this is individualistically driven: i hang with the people i like. and in that fellowship, i find community.

i don't know what to do about the larger national, and subsequent global forces that tend to fragment the church.

GCootsona said...

I do think our relationship alongside other Christians ("syn") will most likely happen at the local level. I posed my question just to see if it's happening at all.

What's different about Paul is that, because of his missionary work, he had this type of "local" relationship with people all over the known world. If possible, our churches will do well to foster that kind of connectedness.

John said...

right, i was going to point out the historicity of the phenomena...

i don't know jim wallis personally, i don't know ted haggard personally, i don't know greg boyd, and i don't know pat robertson.

they, all in a way have put up their own boundaries around their theological, social, and political turf, and command minions.

it's almost as if today's church is a meta-church, composed of huge church bodies that all have their own self-referential doctrine. i'm sure that within these groups, there is "syn". but between them, there is far less.

how did that happen? is it a natural feature of society and culture that exists on a scale far greater than that of biblical times?

with that regard, i don't really know how to contextualize the passage for then, and today.

GCootsona said...

The scale is quite different today from 1st century house church Christianity. And, as you infer, we have the cult of the superstar, who are by nature individuals. That makes it well nigh impossible to reap what Paul sowed so easily. So perhaps my reflection is more of a lament than a call to action.

But what do you think--Could we return to a truer form of koinonia?