Wednesday, 5 August 2015

One God In Community

The Christian picture of a Trinitarian God does have some important consequences.

A key implication is that the Trinity in some way reflects an important property of God's nature: that he is in an essential way relational; that community is somehow central to the creator of the universe.

One has to be really careful here, of course, not to go confusing a Trinitarian picture of God with some kind of cosy human family gathering. God is much, much more than that; but it is likely that He is not less than that.

Notwithstanding the Western Church, over recent centuries, slowly but surely moving to a focus on individualism and on each individual's relationship with God, the pattern of the Bible is very different.

From Genesis, where it is not good for man to be alone, throughout the Old Testament, with its emphasis on God's dealings with His people, to the New Testament, where the story moves from Jesus with his disciples, to the Spirit working in and through the Church, Jesus' body, the Bible is about communities of people following (or not) God.

One way of presenting the 'big picture' of the Bible is about relationships: broken in the opening chapters and being restored by Jesus' sacrifice and the power of God's Spirit. Relationships between people and God, between people and other people, and between people and the natural world, God's creation. These are still issues in our world today - the Bible story doesn't end with the final page of Revelation, it carries on through the lives and work of Jesus' followers throughout history - until the day Jesus returns and makes all things new.

I would argue that this is how you can tell the true Church, Jesus' real followers: are they in the business of restoring relationships or of harming them? Not that even the best churches don't make mistakes and wander off the path, but one can still question both the overall pattern, and the quality of the hopes and dreams of the members: do they build up and welcome in, or do they knock down and exclude?

The Bible tells us that "God is love", and love is the essence of true relationship. If God is love then his followers must also be love, and must ensure that their understanding and practice of that love follows the radical patterns laid down by Jesus. Love isn't about gooey feelings and sex, but about genuine and practical care for someone else, backed with a willingness to sacrifice oneself to meet their deepest needs. To love is to to take up one's cross for the sake of another.

Love starts with loving God with all that we are, continues with loving our neighbour as our selves - even when that neighbour is strange, foreign, or in some other way 'alien' - and ends with God's people loving one another.

Remember that God's love for you is far greater than any human love.

God loves you, He died for you: he is on your side. God is not out to get you, He is out to save you. But He always gives you a choice: love respects freedom of choice. As a parent of young adults I suspect I have a very faint insight into how hard that must be ... even for God.

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