Last time we finished with the realisation that to image God is to be in community, and to some degree it is how we exist, to know ourselves we must be encountered by the other, to be confronted with who we are NOT tells us who we ARE. So, God (when I use this word I am talking about the Christian God, who is revealed as a Triune Being of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is relational at His very core, and as beings created in this image, we are too.
Remember how we looked at the video that described the Trinity in musical terms? Well that gives us a great grounding to go forward from, understanding who the Trinitarian Community of One relates, the ancient term perichoresis is the term that comes most close to describing how that works – you can find out more about the term and its usage by the Early Church in defining the relationship between the members of the Godhead here.
So we move forward to look at what this life in community might look like for us as the people of God, called out from the world around us. Now, that is an important thing to note, as members of the Kingdom of God, as citizens of Heaven, we are expected to look at life differently than everyone else. It doesn’t matter what culture we come from, where in the world we were raised – east, west, north, or south – we are called to live a life radically different to the one that we were leading before we encountered the risen Christ. That has to be a foundational thought for us, otherwise we end up with the kind of church that Bonhoeffer critiqued during the lead up to World War 2. He writes, in a rather sarcastic passage in Discipleship:
Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavouring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ! The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows that, and takes it seriously. He knows he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore-let him live like the rest of the world!
Our community should look different to those around us, that is how it has been since the Church was founded in the book of Acts, and it is how it should continue to be. The way of living together was so radical for the early believers that people couldn’t help but be attracted to it. This was before the Church was involved in politics, or in social justice causes, or any such thing like that. Those, to be sure, were a part of the life of the church, because any time you have people living together you have a politics of some kind, and they certainly cared for their own poor and widowed, a slave even became pope at one point! So those things were there, but, they were not the main point of the community.
The community came together to live life the way that God intended, as a snapshot of the new creation, of what is coming, and in so doing worship God, and a part of that worship was to let people know that the Kingdom had arrived. They were not interested in world domination, they were interested in letting people know the Good News that Jesus is Lord, and that changes everything. No longer were there any dividing walls between people groups, there were no longer anything keeping non-Jews out of the people of God. All are included, and this is what life looks like for those people, those who join this Kingdom will live like this, because this is what life in the fully realised Kingdom will be like.
These are a few thoughts, very rough ones, to get us started looking at exactly what this community might look like in practice.