Faith in God is deeply personal. It draws each person into a saving, transforming relationship through Jesus Christ. But our Christian walk is never meant to be individualistic – we’re meant to co-exist with others in relationships.
How countercultural! To the post-modern mind, authentic relationships may not always be a first consideration. “Who needs it? I want to be a self-made man.” Without even realising it, the assumed baseline for life today is the trinity of ‘me, I, and myself’. When Jesus revealed to us His identity by referring to Himself as the Son of the Father and yet being One with God, He was giving clear primacy to relationship.
On His last night with the disciples before His crucifixion, Jesus washed their feet, yearning for His love to bind them one to another. On the Day of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit came to create a community of God’s people as the Body of Christ – His Church.
As the Church’s emerging life is recorded in Acts and the epistles, this continuing story describes the work of God’s Spirit to form a community of those bound together as one in Christ’s love. Paul’s declaration in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that we’re parts of one body and members of one another is as sharp a rebuke to the heresy of individualism that one can find.
We’ve all been taught about the Trinity consisting of three separate Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but One God. We often do not grasp the deeper truth that the Trinity is a holy community of relationships.
Church fathers in the 4th Century came up with a name for this – ‘perichoresis’ in Greek, where you get the word, ‘choreography’. It comes from a term describing rotation, as in a circle dance. The relationship in the Godhead is a flow, a radical-relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love.
This divine circle dance is not a closed circle – we’re all invited. Jesus comes forth from this Eternal Fullness, allowing us to see ourselves mirrored, as part of this Fellowship – as a participant and partner in God’s eternal dance of love and communion. The mirror seems to have been lost over the centuries, of who God is and who we therefore are, created in His ‘image and likeness’.
The Oneness of the Body of Christ is the Oneness in the Triune God, revealed in the Lord’s Prayer in John 17:21, “That they all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”
We often say Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Do we truly experience and express that relationship in our church, God’s family, and His Body?
Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics basketball team in 2008, worried about how to work with a group of superstars and get them to play not as individuals, but as a team.
Rivers had heard about Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning Anglican archbishop from South Africa. Tutu often talked about ubuntu, an African philosophy meaning one could only be a person through one’s relationship with others, bound intrinsically in community. Put simply, ‘I am because we are.’ It’s not about me; it’s about the ‘we’.
What would our church look like if we learned to lay aside the trinity of ‘Me, I, and myself’? What if we lived by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “Just as the body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
As we launch our annual Cell Month in July, the invitation of the Godhead to us is to enter into this beautiful circle dance of love called community.