It’s not surprising that surveys reveal people’s dissatisfaction with the state of their relationships. Although everyone knows they need to simplify their life, not many take action. Why?
God in Three Persons
Trinitarian Theology: we believe that One God exists in perfect unity in 3 persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This doctrine has implications of who we are as His creatures.
Read Gen. 1:26-28
The plurality of self-pronouns is an early indication of the mystery that surrounds the Oneness, yet community, of who God is – and it is profound because we are made from a conception of thought that is formed in relationship and administered in relationship, and the outcome is man and woman – a phantom, an image or reflection of this relational God. Created to be, live, walk, work in relationship.
Now throughout Scripture we see God working in and through a complete unity of Trinity. This mystical existence of One God in 3 persons is demonstrated through unity, honour and love. Some have called this the dance of the Trinity: Perichoresis - A dance of mutuality.
Created to Relate
We are created to dance in relationship – but our dance was broken because of sin. We lost the simplicity of a beautiful dance and became congested, complicated and hurtful.
“Our failure to reflect the community of God is a radical problem, for it infects even the core of our being. Only the radical activity of God can overcome our alienation, condemnation, enslavement and depravity.” Grenz “Theology for the community of God” ch. 7
We live in a world of violence, hatred, disputes, where families, tribes and nations are suspicious of each other. We live in a world that prefers karma to grace, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
A world of hierarchy, power jostling, greed – and that’s just within the church! A place of relational hypocrisy
- We tell our children to respect their elders, while we allow our elderly to remain homeless and sleep on our park benches.
- We tell our children the story of the Good Samaritan and to be nice to our neighbour, while we vilify homosexuals or asylum seekers.
- We laugh at the circus of celebrities, while our own homes are marred with anger and harsh words.
- We tell our children they are the most important people while we pollute the world that they will live in when we are gone.
- We are horrified at schoolyard bullying but do not blink an eyelid when a superpower invades another country under a guise of messianic-like speeches.
- We don’t allow our children to play with guns as it may cause them to be violent, while we amass guns by the thousands so we can destroy our neighbour if they threaten us.
We are depraved: powerless to change our situation.
So the One, whose image we bear, whose fingerprints we still see even in our depraved state, becomes human and lives among us and the explosive Good News is heard: “Rethink your situation (metanio – repent) – for the Kingdom of God has come among you!”
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Jesus again points us to the centrality of what life is all about – loving God, loving our neighbour.
Luke 10:40; Mark 12:28-34
From the story of the sheep and the goats, to Lazarus at the gate, to the story of the heretical, kind Samaritan – Jesus drives the point home. Community is what you are created to be – and the God language of community is love. RELATIONSHIPS are LIFE’S FOCAL POINT.
All the commandments, Jesus says, - ethical quandaries, moral dilemmas, religious taboos, behaviour modification programmes, creation care issues – all of them are linked to how we respond to the commandment of loving God and loving our neighbour.
So how do I love my Neighbour?
Jesus said to love our neighbour like we love ourselves. And here is probably the first major hurdle – many of us live with a sense of self-loathing. We constantly stuff up; constantly fall short of our own expectations or the expectations of others. We read the Bible and as we do we simply recognise how broken and marred we are and our self-loathing deepens. We then seek to ‘love’ our neighbour out of that place of self-loathing.
Until we deal with our inner demons, torments and judgements – true, life-giving, meaningful relationships – with all their joys, horrors, grief and burdens will continue to allude us – we will continue as shells and masks of a culturised Christianity that is pretty on the outside (Christian conduct award) and full of dead man’s bones on the inside.
"My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." – Brennan Manning
Realistic Expectations of Relationships
Recognise that your relationships will take you along the path of the cross – and will require everything you have, you will pay the ultimate price to love, and it is a path of suffering, pain and, yes, redemption.
We need to have realistic expectations of community – understand the ebbs and flow – understand that the honeymoon season often comes crashing – that we all go through times when we just want to walk away:
- Difficult teenager.
- Marriage issues.
- Work conflict.
- Church community becomes difficult.
Suffering is one of the great means that God uses to bring about redemption – and it is relationships that have survived the fiery trials that make us who we are, and our community what it is.
C.S. Lewis hits it on the head:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
The Greatest Witness: OUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER
The greatest testimony that the people of God can be to the world around – is not their soundness of doctrine (orthodoxy) – as important as that may be, or their charismatic expression of the Spirit, of the length of their prayers, the accuracy of their prophecy, the ‘miraculousness’ of their miracles – the greatest testimony is to reflect God’s image in a manner that people recognise God – and the way that this is done is by the way we love one another.
This sort of love is radical in every way, and takes you along the path of the cross:
- it repays hatred with love
- it feeds the hungry
- clothes the naked
- visits the lonely
- stands in solidarity with the outcasts
- is selfless
- in some ways it is heretical because it goes beyond culturised boundaries
- it serves instead of takes – (refuses the ‘seagull’ approach to relationships: “I will be your friend so you can help me get where I need to go”)
To love like that is to walk in someone else’s moccasins and feel the emotions they feel – to hear their stories, their dreams. Love like that is radical – and you tend to loose your life finding it.
The religious reject it – hiding under cloaks of orthodoxy and doctrine.
The power hungry find it hinders because it requires the stance of the lowest servant.
The insecure love it’s dance, but refuse to take part as it doesn’t have approving crowds.
The greedy ignore it because it doesn’t line their wallet.
The comfortable are quite happy to love those who love them.
Nothing replaces this sort of radical love.
Relationships are costly – do you really want to pay the price?
1. Discuss the concept of ‘perichoresis’ – dance of the Trinity?
2. Self-loathing: how does it hinder the love for our neighbour?
3. Is relational hypocrisy a reality?
4. What will you do differently in order to demonstrate the radical love of Christ?