Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Practice of Christian Community - Part 2. It's About God.

This is the second in a series on Christian Community. You can read the first post here.

Let's get our theology on for this post. Just a little:

Orthodox Christians believe in a mystery normally labeled the "Trinity." We say that God is one being existing in three persons - Father, Son and Spirit. To say this is to say that the One God who always was has always been Three. At his core, he is a functioning community. He is such a community that we are careful to say that he is not three Gods working together, but we boldly proclaim the Shema: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One."

He is such a profoundly perfect community that he is, in fact, One.
He is plurally singular and singularly plural. He is Three, but One.

And we are created in his image. More than that, we are drawn into his Being. When need only to revisit John 15 from our previous post to hear Jesus tell us to "remain in him" as he remains in the Father. The ancients would often speak of this reality as a "divine dance." The great joy we have is knowing that we have been invited into the everlasting dance of the Trinity. Once we were alone, but now we are free to live in the community of God himself.

In other words, it is impossible to talk about the Christian God without talking about community. Even to say things like, "God is love" has an understated assumption of a triune being who loves within himself. So, when God creates a people he has an agenda. He wants a people who will represent him. He infuses his DNA into us. He creates, as he always has, in his image.

All of this produces in me a different way of thinking about community. If it is about God and his being, then it truly isn't about me or those around me. Community simply becomes worship. It is how I show God that I love him. It becomes discipleship. It is how I become like God, since he is the first and greatest community.

Sometimes, when it comes to the various acts of worship, I find that I simply don't want to do them for whatever reason. (I think of singing praise songs or giving my time and money or standing in solidarity with the poor.) Sometimes worship flows from me because I am overflowing with gratitude, but sometimes worship itself is a discipline that I do in spite of my desire not to. I know that God is worth it, so I give him my time or money or praise. Community is the same way. Sometimes I am filled with gratitude and being in community is natural - sometimes it is even fun and easy. But sometimes I don't want to be in community. Then it becomes a discipline of worship.

Though we may overlook this truth, it is clearly stated in the Scriptures. I John 4 says it clearly and better than I can. The reason we live in community is because of the nature of God himself:

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. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

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