This was pretty revolutionary for me. I mean, not revolutionary in the sense that I'd never heard this before or didn't really even believe it to be true. But revolutionary to me in the sense that that this makes sense to me in ways I haven't been able to articulate myself.
This is from Robin Parry's Worshipping Trinity, a book that I have recently read for one of my classes. What do you think? I know that for many of us, who grew up in a typical, Evangelical Christian church, it might be kind of "out there". But I'm growing in this, and like I said, I think it makes sense.
(Note, in the first paragraph, I don't think our personal experiences with God don't matter. Nor do I think this is what the author is trying to convey. This piece is being taken out of an entire book, that I have not provided for you below. But he is challenging us here to think about what the entire focus of Christianity has been, and is challenging us to look and think a little broader than that.)
People in the modern Western world increasingly tend to think of religion as a private thing- something between one man and his god(s). Often such attitudes can creep into the churches, and the focus becomes my relationship with God, Jesus as my personal savior (or therapist?), my ministry, my calling, my prayer life, my lifestyle, my worship experiences and so on... Presumably church is only necessary, then, for weaker Christians (most of us) who still need encouragement from other humans!
This view of the Christian life is up the creek without a paddle and is the spiritual equivalent of handing a drowning man a concrete life jacket! The church is not simply a club of like-minded people who meet until they are strong enough to go it alone. Nor is it about being part of a social club of like-minded individuals. Being a Christian is all about being part of God's community. The church is the family of God sharing one Father, the body and bride of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. God's plan has never been to save lots of individuals who will all relate to him individually... God's plan has always been to create a human community of people who love God and love each other. That is what humanity was all about in creation. That is what God's new humanity of Israel was all about. That is what the church, God's transformed end-time Israel, is all about. Being a Christian just is being part of that new humanity in Christ.
The church is a Trinitarian creation... When we become Christians, we are baptized into Christ's body in the waters of baptism and the cloud of the Spirit (1 Cor. 10:2). Christ is a single human being with a single body that is currently seated at the right hand of the Father... Christ represents all humanity before God. All humanity 'in him' participate in whatever he is before God. Christians are those who are placed 'into Christ' by the Spirit, such that what Christ is, the church also is 'in him'. So if Christ has one unified body, then 'in Christ', the church is one, unified body- a single organism with many parts that play different roles, but function together as one.
This has implications for thinking about Christian unity today. Church unity is not something humans must bring about, because it is something that God has already achieved 'in Christ'...the challenge for the church is to live out in practice what we already are in Christ. The church lives caught between the present evil age and the age to come, tasting, but not fully enjoying, the powers of the kingdom of God.
More on Trinitarian life to come...