Relationships in Turmoil
Despite the fact that there are many good things happening in our world today, it doesn’t take a lot of insight to realize that we are a time of turmoil – especially in our relationships. At our very core, human beings are relational creatures. We have this tendency to ‘herd’ - to want to be together with other people. Deep inside, we have longings for belonging, for acceptance, for love, for intimacy and for meaning – all of which are found in a relationship with others. Yet despite our obvious need and our best efforts, there is evidence of fractured, broken and dysfunctional relationships everywhere: between and within nations, in the marketplace, in families, and even in the church.
The apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest followers, faced similar challenges in his lifetime. The Roman Empire of his day was ruthless, harsh and abusive, creating fear in every citizen’s heart. Even in the church, there were tensions, divisions, and conflicts. The threats from the inside were as great as the persecution from the outside. John was a pastor placed over a number of church congregations. What could he say? How would he address these relational problems? Let’s reads some of his words, no doubt inspired by the Holy Spirit:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [1 John 4:7-11. NIV]
For John, the remedy to the problem was to get back to the source of everything: God as love. He doesn’t use fear or guilt as a motivator. He painted a picture of God’s very nature. If they could only catch a fresh glimpse of God, as he really is, it could radically change their own hearts and lives. People grounded powerfully in God’s love are able to experience a transformation that will affect all aspects of community life … and ultimately the world.
The Dance of Divinity
We need a fresh revelation of GOD. It begins by looking at Jesus. In his gospel, Mark wastes no time in boldly declaring Jesus to be the “Son of God (Mark 1:1).” He then moves quickly to the scene of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11). Here we see the Father, who is the voice; the Son, who is the Word in human form; and the Spirit fluttering like a dove. Mark is deliberately pointing us back to the original creation of the world. Creation and redemption are both the work of a Trinity, one God in three persons.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one God, eternally existent in three persons (Matthew 28:19. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Ephesians 2:18). This is a mystery and difficult for the human mind to comprehend. There are not three Gods. Neither is there one God posing in three different forms. Here are three persons, who in some amazing, mysterious way constitute one God.
In the Trinity, none is before or after the other, none is less or greater than another, none is subordinated in being or function to another. The members exist as three equal yet differentiated persons in the most intimate communion. There is a radical, relational, co-equality. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “In Christianity, God is not a static thing … but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.” Each person of the Trinity moves, flows, and draws life from the other in a community of perfect love. It’s the dance of divinity - sometimes called perichoresis by theologians (peri = around; choresis = to move or dance).
Implications for Human Relationships
The doctrine of the Trinity is not just a nice theological concept. Ultimately, it is a practical doctrine with radical consequences for the Christian life. The community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit becomes a prototype of the human community God dreams of – a society of loving relationships reflecting the image of our Creator God. The Trinity can be seen as a model or pattern for our human relationships. We are called into this life, the Triune God in whom “we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28).”
God invites us into this dance - not as the fourth person of the Godhead, but as part of his loving community. In contrast, evil forces seek to disrupt the dance, pulling us away from a trusting relationship with God. Our choice and our response have far-reaching implications, both now and for eternity.
What does an understanding of the very nature of the Trinity mean for us today? What are some “dance movements” that we need to learn? Here are a few: God calls to move away from isolation and towards community; from selfishness towards self-giving love; from discord towards unity; from suspicion towards trust; from exclusion towards inclusion, enlarging our circle of love. Yes, the Lord of the Dance calls us into the joyful rhythm of his loving community.
The quality of relationship we long for has always been part of who God is. More importantly, when the church community truly reflects the nature of Trinitarian love, its witness to the world will be the most powerful and effective. Experience the Trinity today. After all, the eternal God lives on the inside of you … because of Jesus …and by the Spirit.
Some Reflection Questions:
- If God has existed in a loving community within for eternity, why did God create us?
- Reflect on God as Trinity. What does it mean to you? How can you explain it?
- Reflect on the picture of a “dance of Divinity.” How is this metaphor helpful?
- How should our understanding of God as Trinity affect our human relationships: marriage, parenting, workplace relationships, and church community relationships? Discuss some of the “dance movements” above; come up with some more.
- Francis Schaeffer once said, “Christian community is the final apologetic.” Do you think this is true and, if so, what are the implications for the church today?
- What is the Father like? What is the Son like? What is the Spirit like? How can we grow in our relationship with each person of the Trinity?