26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28 NLT)
What Does God Look Like?
If we were made in the image of God, what is the Image that we reflect?
If you ask someone what God looks like, they might think of Gandolf, the elderly wizard in Lord of the Rings, or they might think of their idea of what a Jewish man would look like in the first century. You can try this yourself – just think about God and see what image pops into your head first.
Whatever image comes to mind, most people will think of God in terms of an individual, because that is how we as humans largely exist.
We relate to God the Father, or God the Son, or God the Spirit.
I often hear people say that they cannot relate to the God of the Old Testament, but they love God as Jesus in the New Testament. As if these two can be separated?
I am attempting to retrain (renew) my mind to think of God as a community. They are a fellowship. They only exist in relationship. Our God is a He who is a They.
It’s confusing to think about too long and I find that I just have to accept it.
The implications of this renewed thinking of God as a community are far reaching. For one, it reveals that I most reflect God when I am in a relationship with someone else. (This is not necessarily a romantic relationship. I am just referring to being a part of other people’s lives, whether it is romantic or not.)
Secondly, it means that if God needs others, I probably do, too. Many individualistic folks don’t like the idea that we really do need others to get through life. The self-made, self-sustaining, do-it-all type of person is overly praised in western culture.
Third, God’s church, His house (I’m referring to people, not buildings), is meant to be an interdependent community of people, as opposed to a gathering of individual people. This interdependency goes as deep as the community is willing to go, and the deeper they are able to sink into interdependency, inter-relatedness, inter-knowing, the more they will reflect God as They truly are.
Of course, getting there is a slow process, and it takes a whole lot of time, vulnerability, mistakes, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and so on.
What Are They Doing?
The real question is what the Trinitarian Community looks like. What are They doing? How do They function together?
Many believers have been taught, as was I, that the Spirit, Son and Father exist in a hierarchy. The Son is the subordinate to the Father, and the Spirit is the subordinate to the Son. Orders flow down from the Father. But this fits human design more than divine reality.
The oneness of God is not the oness of a distinct, self-contained individual; it is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony… They are what they are only in relationship with one another… There is not a solitary person separated from the others; no above and below; no first, second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling adn being ruled and controlled; no position of privilige to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict concerning who is in charge; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the others. Now there is only fellowship and communion of equals who share all that they are and have in their communion with each other, each living with and for the others in mutual openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. That is how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are related in the inner circle of the Godhead.
Kevin Giles, The Trinity and Subordinationism, page 103
Quoted from Milt Rodriguez, The Community Life of God, pages 16-17
So what are they doing? They are loving, sacrifcing, sharing. I think when you look at the life and words of Jesus in the Scriptures this communal nature of God shines through. John’s gospel, chapters 14-17 really bear this out.
What Does This Mean For Body Life?
Part of God’s eternal purpose or ultimate intention or highest goal is to enlarge Their fellowship. God desired a family that would relate to one another as God relates to Themselves. This family would not have to accomplish this on their own – they are invited into the life and love already flowing among the Father, Son, and Spirit.
We become participants in the divine nature. I wish I could write this in a way that would emphasize how mind-blowing (mind-renewing) this really is!
This means that body life is not about any one individual. And yet so much of Christianity today is built to worship the individual. Whether it is the individual preacher who dominates the functioning of the body of Christ, or the individual person who wants the church to meet and serve their needs, the focus tends to be on some “I” instead of “we” or “our”.
This is completely opposite to divine nature, which is always giving, always pouring out. Read through Philippians 2 and you will see that Jesus is not grasping, not holding on to, not worrying about getting His fill or preserving Himself. He gives Himself up, even to death on a cross. The moment we transition from I to our, we are in a position of considering others above ourselves – which is repeatedly displayed through the Scriptures both in God and in His people – and we begin to touch on what divine community really is.
As Paul says, let us have the mind of Christ.
If you want to know what Christian community is to be like, you need to look no further than the divine fellowship of the Father, Son, and the Spirit.
They have freely, willingly, opened a door through the Son, so that we can enter into their divine fellowship and reflect the image of God together as a community that partakes of Their love and life and freely deposit it into each other.
By this flow of love, the children of God will be known… (John 13:35)
Follow Their Life!
Recommended Reading on This Topic:
Milt Rodriguez: The Community Life of God
Gilbert Bilezikian: Community 101
Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell: The Divine Dance
William Paul Young: The Shack