We talk about God all the time. We use words like holy, just, benevolent. Or, we say he’s the almighty, all-powerful…etc. I would agree with all these, but mere words miss the larger story of God. I can’t adequately describe who my wife is with just words. One would need to understand the relationship we have. Same with my family and friends. And that’s the key – relationship.
But when we think of God the term “relational” does not usually come to mind. Many are quick to say God is love. But how? How is God love? To love, there must be relationship, right? Relationship is first.
In the Christian tradition we see a very unique relationship in the Trinity – God 3 in 1 – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. However, there is a lot of baggage around this. The framework in which God (the Trinity) is often viewed and taught is a domination system of might is right rather than relational. There’s also a lot of historical baggage where the Church was not very nice about explaining this doctrine. Since the second century folks have been arguing about it – is it valid?, is it biblical?, who’s most important?…etc. Imagine me arguing with my wife about who is most important in our family and you may get a sense of missing the relational framework.
In a domination mindset, many see God at the top with Jesus and the Holy Spirit running around doing the grunt work. Or Jesus and the Holy Spirit are envisioned as seated at the right and left of the Father on thrones. With this imagery, it’s hard to see any relational harmony. We can’t unlock the mystery.
More and more theologians, pastors, thinkers are highlighting the Trinity as a dance. If we can clear our minds of centuries of art and paintings that have God up in the clouds, if we can re-frame the throne imagery and language, we can begin to see God (Father, Son, Spirit) in an active relationship. They’re dancing in perfect harmony. They love one another. They serve one another. They uphold one another. They surround one another. They behold one another. No one takes center stage. Doesn’t this sound a bit like the teachings of the Gospel and Jesus Christ?
Tim Keller notes that we’re catching a glimpse of “ultimate reality” with the Trinity. We see this reality in the creation story and Jesus’ baptism, as well as throughout the Gospels and Paul’s letters. Instead of God standing on the clouds, picture three people holding hands and spinning around – dancing, loving, laughing, creating, enjoying, living.
If we approach the Trinity in all it’s relational dimensions we begin to see the larger model, the “Ultimate Reality,” in which we are to live with one another in peace, love, and harmony. Imagine the healing that could take place.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson