The One, The Three and The Many

Reclaiming Christian Witness and Authority

5. “But a body have you prepared for me”

The One God, who is revealed as Three now manifests himself in the many – the many spread across time, space, history and into eternity!

In incarnation He came down to dwell among men, as Man. But after His resurrection, ascension and exaltation He manifests Himself in the Church, which is His Body. Apostle Paul writes, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Eph 1: 22, 23. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Col 2: 9, 10.

Thus He now lives among men, in His body the Church. Hence the Messianic prayer, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” This Body is not only the body that Christ had in His incarnation but I believe, it also constitutes people ‘called out of the world’ to be His own. Who also are willing to fulfill the Father’s will as Christ, their Master did even if it meant death on a cross.

They have learned to live in communion with God and with one another patterned according to the Triune God – distinct yet one, one yet many. United in communion yet distinct in being. They have learned to give of themselves to God and to one another just as the Father gave away the Son and the Son offers himself to the Father through the Spirit and gives himself to us.

We have thus come to answer the question, how does the invisible God make himself known? What representation God allows of Himself, if He does at all.

Before the coming of Christ. God is represented in his Word. As Moses explained to the people of Israel, “You came near and stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain burned with fire that reached up to the sky. There were thick black clouds and darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you from the fire. You heard the sound of someone speaking, but you did not see any form. There was only a voice.” He is known in His voice and in the recording of that voice in written form. This is why He is also known as the Word. And the same Word became flesh and lived among us.

We can say therefore, that God makes himself known both by speaking and in His incarnation as man, not any man but the Man, Christ Jesus. More importantly He now makes Himself known in His people, the Church, people called out of every tribe, every nation, every tongue and every colour by indwelling them. Although this manifestation of Him through the Church now is in weakness, frailty and imperfection, it continues into eternity and all ages in fullness, glory and perfection.

The question about the purpose of incarnation is a crucial one. How we answer it determines how we think about our life on earth and the place of the Church in the eternal plans of God and how she should conduct herself now in the world.

Apart from revealing the Father, the redemption of the human race, the purpose of His incarnation was also to reveal man or to show how man should live. For no man ever lived the way men should live for they all had sinned and had fallen short of God’s glory. Christ in his humanity was the only one who lived as men should live. Only then could He be our representative in order to make propitiation for our sins. The full significance of this can be understood when we look at the fact that the only being closest to God in appearance in the whole of creation is the human, because he has been made in God’s own image.

Therefore the purpose of incarnation is to not only to redeem man but to dwell among them and that the incarnation of God continues in the Church, His body. Apostle Paul’s point in his letter to the Ephesians, is that God has now included even the ‘gentiles’ along with the Jews in His eternal plan of ‘calling many sons unto glory’ and making them part of Christ’s body, the Church, of which Christ is the Head. This is the mystery hidden from ages in God but he, Paul, has been chosen to bring this to light.

This Apostle Paul writes is”…the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Eph 3: 8-11)

“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

Listen to the prophecy of Isaiah which I think basically, refers to the redeemed people of God, But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!…“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (emphasis mine, Isa 43: 1 – 14.)

But all this is a finished act for God. Hence He rests. He rests because, “…his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” Oh, the joy, the beauty and the glory of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ! This calls for falling down before Him in awe, adoration and praise!

Such a divine and corporate dynamic cannot be captured in an institution. What system or ritual or tradition or programme can capture this? Hence it is utterly preposterous and nonsensical to think that we can give representation to God in our systems, structures, patterns and programmes. Nor can a single group or an individual ever think that they can fully capture the divine essence in them. He is known first in His Son. But now, He is known in the body He made for His Son, namely the Church.

But the question is, how does God make Himself known in and through the Church? If God incarnates in His Son, Jesus Christ and if the incarnation continues in His body the Church, then the Church can make God known only when she models her life according to the life of Christ, as revealed in the gospels and expounded by the apostles in their letters to the churches. In this is the WORD among us. A church that is born of the WORD and lives by that WORD and demonstrates the WORD in her life. The WORD embodied in the church!

Therefore Paul writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”. And again, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

To be imitators of God we must ‘mimic’ (in greek the root word is the same for imitate and mimic) Him and love as He loves. We are asked to do this as Christ loved us. This is the kind of representation the Son makes of the Father. And this is the only representation the church can make of the Father. Only thus we shall have a witness that cannot be duplicated by the world. When God’s people begin to live as Christ lived, their witness shines brighter than the noon-day sun. This is the visibility that God allows of Himself. The visibility of lives lived as ‘imitators of God’. The point is, we were already created in the image of God and this image has been restored to us in Christ through redemption.

Only when we live as ‘imitators of God’ then do we not ony fulfill the purpose of our Creation and find meaning and fulfillment in life. But only thus we would be able to give representation to God in our lives and make Him visible in our lives. This is God’s chosen way. As Paul says, it is the “mystery hidden from ages” and “the mystery of godliness” that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Mark the word ‘now’. This is not something that would happen later. This is something that happens now. The manifold wisdom of God is made known NOW to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places! That is when God’s people become ‘imitators of God’ and ‘walk in love as Christ loved us’.

Any other way of representing God would be deficient, spurious and unworthy of Him. If we think we can make God visible in our religious forms, rituals, customs and traditions or in our programmes and projects or even in our material and worldly affluence then we are not only blind and deluded but become stooges of the enemies of God. Rather than being God’s co-workers to build His Kingdom we become collaborators of God’s enemy and become a hindrance to the work of God.

The only authentic way is the way Christ lived. For He is authentic God and authentic Man in His incarnation! In all this God’s ultimate purpose is THAT CHRIST MAY BE ALL IN ALL!

Listen to the words of the apostle in Colossians 1: 15-23, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Emphasis mine)

CHRIST is God’s pattern for man. When God commanded Moses to build the temple He commanded him to make it ‘according to the pattern shown to him on the mountain’. Accordingly the pattern in which we build the church in the New Testament era is CHRIST. Hence Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “…he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” The goal of every apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is to bring God’s people to ‘the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’.

Any other objective in ministry is unworthy of and falls far short of the purpose and the glory of God! If through our work we are not bringing about the ‘unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God’ among God’s people, then I wonder if we are doing God’s work at all! Rather than building ‘church buildings’ and huge sanctuaries at great costs, how commendable and glorious to spend on building people ‘to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’. The former is comparatively easy. But the later, while it is demanding does not give itself to statistics and reports.

Where are the people who are like Timothy of whom the Apostle writes, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Much of the ministry today seems to be to work for ones own interests in the name of safe-guarding the interests of the organisation – its security and its identity. For in many instances our own security and identity are bound up with that of the ministries we do rather than our God. Therefore in many instances our ministires have become our careers. Rather than losing ourselves in serving others for the sake of Christ our objectives are often discoloured with self-seeking – career-growth, and self-preservation.

The Son shows the Father to us in the life he lived – in the words he spoke, the works he did and the way he lived. His disciples were to just go and make disciples of all nations by teaching them and constituting them into congregations of God’s called out people or to be local expression of Christ as His body, the church.

In his incarnation Jesus reveals God, reveals man and in the process he demonstrates a way of living which is alien to human nature and thinking. Our nature and thinking is of fallenness which betrays our insecurity and identity-crisis. Therefore all our systems and structures betray the same malady – in our governance, our economics and our institutions. Our relationships, our friendships, and even our fellowships often are plagued by it. But Jesus, as God and as Man demonstrates wholeness and a life totally at rest with Himself and with others around him. Everything he said and did was from rest. He could not or would not be pushed around by others’ attitudes, fears or insecurity.

In his incarnation he teaches us a totally different trajectory of living – of self-denial, condescension, service and sacrifice. It is not the upward trajectory (if I may use the word) of life, like the rest of the world but a downward trajectory of life. It is of God coming into the world as man. The infinite now coming as finite. The great one as simple and the mighty one as helpless. I have tried to capture the thought in the following poem:

We have seen his glory
The glory of God as Man

Great One as simple
Invisible as visible
Immortal as mortal
Almighty as helpless
Rich One as poor
Invincible as vulnerable
Infinite as finite
Sovereign as servant!

We have seen his glory
The glory of the Real Man
Real God as Real Man
Authentic God as authentic man
No more distant, no more far
Neither illusive nor obscure
No more invisible but now
Real, visible and vulnerable.

Visible and seeable
Physical and touchable
Vulnerable yet invincible
Humble yet strong
Beatable yet unbeaten
Killable yet never-dying
Abusable yet not abused!
Small yet encompassing the universe!

He is God but now he is also man
They saw His glory. Have you?

His representation of God is of a loving and caring Father and not of an autocratic despot. Nor of a controlling and dominating ruler.

The life that Christ lived while on earth was not the private, individualistic, self-seeking and self-centered life that most of us have learnt from the world. He was led by the will of God and by the Spirit of God. You do not find Him guarding his identity nor working for his security. It was a life of constant pouring of himself into others. He sought His Father’s pleasure in seeking our welfare so, “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

The only authentic way is to live as Christ lived. As mentioned earlier only when the church demonstrates the same mind as Christ’s or when we begin to imitate God and walk in love as Christ, we would be His true witnesses. Only such people can claim to have the authority to speak for God to the world!

Finally it must be noted that none of us individually can ever represent God fully as Christ did. Only corporately we can ever think of attaining to His perfection as Paul writes to Ephesians. “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” It is all of us together – the redeemed humanity, in Christ and as Christ.

As we yield to one another in Him and yield to His working in us, we are transformed to be the people He has called us to be. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

The One, The Three and The Many

Reclaiming Christian Witness and Authority

4. One, Three and Many

The One, the Three and the many sums up all that is in this universe. The One God who reveals himself as three is the basis for all the variety and the diversity in life and the world.

We have seen the implications of knowing God as One. While giving our unswerving allegiance to Him, how to think of Him as three and what implications does it hold for life?

A right understanding of God, especially his tri-personality, is crucial to understanding about the nature of being, the world, the human life, the individual, marriage, family, society, church, missions, tolerance, organisation, governance, economics, global peace, reconciliation and host of other issues pertinent to life and existence.

If there has been one anomaly in the Christian or even evangelical understanding of God, it is in the understanding of the doctrine of Trinity. I must state it here and state it with all the strength that I can muster, that the present state of affairs in the church as individuals as well as, as a community is because of the lack of right understanding of the God, who is revealed in His word as Three. It is because of this lack, the church has gone behind the world and has learnt practically all of its ways from the world – the way we think of ourselves as individuals, our relationships and fellowship, the organisation models and the kind of economics we practise among us.

As individuals we cherish and guard our private, individualistic, self-centered and self-seeking lifestyles. We derive our confidence from our education, position, and money. We have forgotten that we are made for relationships – with God and with others, that to love them is to seek their pleasure.

We have reduced fellowship in the church to a meeting or a programme. We have forgotten that true fellowship is about sharing the life of God in us with others in such a way that we experience His fullness among us corporately.

I believe that the three major organisational models followed by the different churches globally, namely the Episcopalian, Presbyterian and the Congregational models are an offshoot of eisegesis and not exegesis at all. Besides most of the newer churches and para church ministries have just adopted an organisational style which is purely entrepreneurial. Whatever their origins these are all political structures deriving their power from worldly knowledge, money, position or from the personal charisma and confidence of the leader(s). And all of these are political, monolithic, hierarchical, bureaucratic and nowhere near to anything that you learn from either the God of the Bible or his incarnation in his Son, Jesus Christ.

What can one say of our economics? Everyone of us with few exceptions have adopted lifestyles arising from capitalism. Even our churches and ministries are being run on the same model. Alongwith the entrepreneurship learnt from the world, we do not see the irony with using our gifts to earn profits in the name of ministry. Earning profits from ministry in order to build our own careers is unworthy of anything that is taught in scripture. Patenting our knowledge from the misuse of it is one thing but making it inaccessible to others is another matter. Truth is nobody’s monopoly. It is God’s and must be let loose in the world.

Do you still wonder that our witness is lost and authority weakened? Therefore Jeremiah’s lamentation rings true, “How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at every street corner. How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands!”

The only teaching that can remedy this situation if the church is willing to learn and change, is a persistent and continuous meditation on the Trinity and the incarnation of God in the person of Christ. I do not see any other way. Despite all their claims to personal and corporate success and riches, I personally think that the people of God have been earthbound and rendered spiritually destitute for several decades now. In the words of Jeremiah, the prophet, “Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field.” For far too long they have been fed upon earthly fare and not the manna from heaven.

“A right understanding of God is the panacea for millions of evils in the world” wrote A W Tozer in his ‘The knowledge of the Holy’. Mortimer J Adler, the General Editor in the 1980s of the Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote in his article on God, “More consequences follow from that one issue than from any other.”

The ontology of being
First, it must be noted that Trinity is not the same as trimurti in Hinduism. Trimurti is a triad of three gods, collapsing into a single form with three faces. Trinity is one God revealed as three persons or subsistence.

While we confess that the God of the Bible is triune, there has been a general tendency to think of him as purely ‘monotheistic’, so strongly and probably in reaction to Greek polytheism or even the eastern dualism, that we often tend to be ‘unitarian’ in our thinking. This needs to be remedied.

The One God is the basis for the Three and the Three the basis for many. If God were One, an unitarian being, then there could be no place or room for any other. He would fill all space, all time, all eternity leaving no room for any other to exist. But God as revealed in the Bible is not unitarian but trinitarian. He is three.

There is room (if such a figure of speech is permitted) within the Godhead for three co-equal and self-expressing beings with free-will to co-exist eternally. Therefore He makes room for not just the universe but for other self-conscious, self-expressing, and rational beings with a free will to exist.

God is ONE yet THREE. It can be said from our knowledge of scripture, the three are in such mutual communion and inter-mingling in their giving and receiving that all differences cease to exist, while still retaining their distinctives and particularity. God is ONE because of the communion. God is THREE because of the room, the space they give each other to exist, to express and to BE. This is another fact of God’s inherent being and gives us the basis for our understanding the nature of being.

The communion of sharing leads to oneness and unity. The giving of room (accommodation) to each other gives each the distinctness and particularity. The oneness does not subsume the distinctness of each nor the distinctness affirmed at the expense of oneness. The individuals do not collapse into each other so as to lose their distinctness or identity nor the distinctness and identity emphasised in such a way as to make communion and oneness impossible.

But for such dynamic relationships of distinctness and particularity yet maintaining unity and oneness there is need for willingness to share, to give and to receive. This in turn calls for submission and vulnerability. This is the ontology of being.

The implications of believing in the Triune God is to live in relationships. To live together in relationships in such a way as to be One is the ontology of the divine being. There is no room here for private, individualistic, and self-centeredness lives. The dynamic by which they live in relationships is the dynamic of love not power. This means there is no exercise of power to dominate or to control in order to bring oneness. Domination and control are the lot of fallen humanity but alien to the divine being. There is voluntary giving of oneself to the other because of love. Love does not seek its own. Love seeks the pleasure of the other. The Son pleases the Father and the Spirit glorifies the Son and the Father. The Father gives all authority to the Son. There is no fear of being taken advantage of in the Trinity. Because there is no fear in love(1John 4: 18).

This is the way families and churches need to be constituted – with self-giving love. It is because of love we share and it is because of love we make room for others to be and do. This not by the exercise of power, especially power that is derived from knowledge or money or physical strength but through love. So the basis for our relationships is the self-giving love which enables us to voluntarily submit to one another. Such relations are based on voluntary love and submission therefore these are not structures of power. Structures of power are political structures and are a result of our fallenness. Such structures promise to provide security and identity but in the process are enslaving. But since the people of God are not self-seeking but self-giving they do not form political structures instead they live as a family or as the household of God based on the dynamic of self-giving love and voluntary submission to one another.

It can be said of such people, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Psalm 133)

Furthermore, the fellowship and relationships even among Christians have become purely utilitarian. We do not want to give ourselves fully to people nor do others want us as we are wholly. We pick and choose who we want, what we want and when we want of others. In the name of professionalism we have become mechanical and distant. And in the name of specialisation we have become choosy, calculating and compartmentalised.

In the Godhead however, they give of themselves to each other, fully, totally, unhesitatingly and without holding back. It’s a free flow of love and life. Relationships in families and the church must be the same.

Such a life is counter-cultural, antithetical to anything and everything that we know in the world. There is no greed nor insecurity nor domination and control in this way of living. But love, health, mutuality and divine fullness.

The dynamic of love also dictates our dealings with one another. Therefore we give ourselves in the service of others as Christ gave himself for us. There is no room here for greed or even the motive of profit-making. One does not serve with the aim of gaining by serving. One serves because one has the ability or the resources that the other is in need of. True love serves freely seeking the welfare of the object of love. Just as God gave away his Son for us and as Christ offered himself up for us. In this is a model for economics. An economics based on the self-giving love of Christ which is different from anything that one can think of in the world.

This is captured for us in these words of apostle Paul, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” And “…the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The different models of economics in the world are not derived from Trinitarian understanding of God but from human fallenness. Therefore all such models in the final analysis lead to extortion and exploitation. The church cannot have anything to do with such structures.

God is One, yet Three is the basis for communication, fellowship and relationships. To communicate is not just passing on of information as it is understood in the world today. Communication within the Godhead is the communication of love. Communication of love is not the expressing of emotion or sentiment as we tend to think but it is the communication of their being or the communication of life between them. Which is what is fellowship or communion. God does not communicate in mere words. His words have the force of his being behind them. When he speaks he gives of himself unreservedly, unselfishly, totally, without holding back anything. This is the reason why, God speaking is not information dumping but giving of himself. Hence what God speaks comes to pass. Life is communicated and therefore created. Relationships are born leading to communion of life. Jesus said, “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”(Jn 6:63)

Unfortunately much of the preaching in the church today has become information dumping rather than communication of life. This is one of the consequences of fallenness. Where are the signs of redemption then? Information dissemination and acquiring of knowledge is the way of teaching and learning in the world. But when even churches and Christian seminaries adopt the same model, is it not worldliness? No wonder we have so many people with BIG heads! ‘Knowledge puffs up’ wrote the Apostle. Many in the church today are left hungry, unfed, unchanged and gasping for life.

Until we rediscover the Triune God, understand Him and live by the implications of such an understanding, we shall be groping for answers and flounder from one ‘broken pot’ to another and just take whatever is on offer from the world. Is this not the reason why, we have borrowed the organisational models from the world and not from the Triune God. Therefore we have the sad spectacle of so-called ‘management-gurus’ of the world, who are now considered experts on Christian leadership conduct seminars on how to manage our churches. With such gross compromise and worldliness, how can we be witnesses before the world and have the authority to speak for God. I lament!

N.B.: Please read ‘Trinitarian Economics’ and ‘Small is Beautiful’ below in the blog, for more on trinitarian understanding of economics and organisation.

He Who Has Ears To Hear…4

Small is beautiful

 

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  Psalm 42            

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63                                                                    

“It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not dispute the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of every Christian is the Godhead, The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the greatest God whom he calls his Father.”  C. H. Spurgeon

“A right understanding of God is a panacea for millions of evils in the world” A. W. Tozer

One of the greatest and chief maladies plaguing the people of God today is the lack of right understanding of God. In my knowledge the last book written, substantially on God and meant for the average Christian was, ‘Knowing God’ by James I. Packer, published in 1973. There is a great dearth of good preaching and books on God and his attributes. The effect of such a lack is all around us to see.

A right understanding of God, especially his tri-personality, is crucial to understanding about the nature of being, world, human life, individual, marriage, family, society, church, missions, tolerance, economics, global peace, reconciliation and a host of other issues pertinent to life and existence.

The contemplation of God, said Charles Spurgeon preaching to his congregation at the age of 20 in 1855, humbles the mind, it expands the mind and is consolatory to the mind. I think nothing is more healing, redemptory, expanding and consolatory to the soul than a consistent and persistent contemplation of the Trinity. If this has not happened or is not happening around us it is because of the increased preoccupation with our needs, our problems and ourselves. We seem to putter around this globe lost within ourselves in pursuit of our self-interests. It is no wonder that we remain impoverished. There is a great need for robust preaching from our pulpits. A preaching that is imbued with God – his name and nature, alone can bring back the much-needed health and empowering.

One of the major ways the enemy of our souls has distracted us from our pursuit of God and discipleship unto Christ is by creating ways and means of living which seem very legitimate. First, our Christian faith has been relegated to mere forgiveness from sin, escape from hell and a ticket to go to heaven. Once those are guaranteed, our middle-class pursuits of worldly success and material affluence got ‘baptised’ as God’s will through a faulty interpretation of scripture. We, then accepted uncritically the compartmentalisation of life as sacred and secular, public and private and work and worship. We had already created convenient systems and structures to organise our worship and ministry so that we can follow Christ and pursue the world! Hasn’t capitalism made the pursuit of material prosperity easier? And isn’t capitalism the result of Christian thinking?  We have thus begun to get cosy with the world. We even seek God’s help through sincere prayer to help us to ride two horses! Isn’t our God, the God of impossibilities? Isn’t he all-powerful? Did he not say, “Whatsoever you will ask in my name…”? Has he not promised to give us the hidden treasures of the earth! Why can’t our desire for God and discipleship of Christ go on side by side with our middle class pursuits! We even began to interpret scripture to justify our pursuit of the world and God!

So our middle class pursuits and the way we do our worship and ministry together have actually become our idols and have supplanted God from our lives.  Our pursuit of God has been replaced by the pursuit of the world.  We seek what the world has to offer, thinking these are blessings from God rather than seeking the God who created us and for whom we have been made. We seek the gifts rather than the Giver or we seek the Giver in the gifts. This is how our worship, ministry and even churches have become idols, since our pursuit is for the gifts not the Giver himself. Whenever the creature replaces the Creator or the gifts the Giver it becomes idolatry. In many cases it appears that churches and pastors have become facilitators of this illegitimate pursuit!

In my previous article we have discussed about how capitalism made the middle class dream possible and explained why it cannot be the model for the people of God to follow. In this article we shall look at why the structures and systems we created for our worship and ministry and the governing patterns we have followed in them are not of the Lord and how they lead us into idolatry and enslavement.

A few questions to raise by way of clarifying the issues – why do we build sanctuaries, prayer houses, chapels, cathedrals and call them church? How far is it right to call them churches? And how far is it right to build such large structures focusing our passion and finances upon them? Do these really represent the body of Christ? How far do they facilitate the expression of the body of Christ in our neighbourhoods? Then there is the question of the national and international efforts for evangelism and missions, forming large global structures and ministries – is this the right way to take the gospel to the whole world? Or are we aping the world, in its penchant to define success by the criteria of largeness? What is the way of the Kingdom of God in all these matters?  Then there is the question of conserving our efforts and of bringing in unity while maintaining diversity. How can this be achieved without sacrificing unity for the sake of diversity or vice versa? What about the governing systems of the world – democracy, autocracy, theocracy? Many scholars read into the New Testament records three forms of church government – Presbyterian, Episcopal or Congregational? We shall not go into a detailed debate on all the questions above in this article, but we shall indicate a general direction towards finding an answer.

As mentioned above, the answer to all these questions lies in our understanding of the triune God and his incarnation in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ – his life and teaching as recorded in the gospels and expounded by the early Apostles. Is it wrong to say that this must remain the sole model for the way we live and the things we do in the world? Is it heretical to call us back to the ways of the Kingdom of God as represented in Christ’s incarnation and his life and teaching? Why no one seems to understand or pay attention? Is it because of our condition similar to the Laodicean church – “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing…”?

Two deviations that have gone unnoticed to a large extent on this point – first, as mentioned earlier, rather than seeking and knowing God our pursuit of him has been hijacked by the pursuit of the world. The second is, we have not paid enough attention to the life of the Son of God as man on earth. I do not find much teaching on his life as man – a meditation on Jesus, the Man and drawing lessons for life and work. This dearth is possibly a major cause why we have adopted the ways of the world practically in every area of life and work.

Do you still wonder why I believe that God is saying to us, “…my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”?

Small as a mustard seed

The ways of the kingdom of God are different from the ways of the world. Jesus taught in his kingdom parables,

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”(Matthew 13: 31-32)

The incarnation of God in Christ teaches us much more than what we seem to learn from it. It teaches us a way of life. God’s way of working is simple, small, personal and unobtrusive. While it does spread and become larger – the way it spreads is not by any human or world’s ways. It is not by the way of money power. It does not happen through political means.  Nor is it at all by military might. It is not by human ingenuity either? The way of Jesus is not the way of the world. It is totally different.

Incarnation, and by implication condescension, vulnerability, submission, service, self-sacrifice are at the heart of the nature of the triune God. The act of creation, revelation, redemption are all aspects of God’s nature of making himself vulnerable. It is man, the fallen man, who is self-conscious and suffers from insecurity and identity crisis finds it hard to condescend. But not God, the complete, and self-sufficient One. Those who do not understand the triune God find it hard to understand how God can become a man, suffer and die for sinners. How can God die is a major question for many. Man cannot have it that way. If he had his way he would have a God who is God and not a man. The way of God to deal with man is through incarnation. Hence Paul writing to the Philippian Church says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” God’s way in dealing with man through incarnation is to teach us that his way is not the political way, nor the financial way nor is it the way of military might or by the wisdom of the world. This is the offense of the gospel. Unfortunately we don’t seem to learn this and seem to be trying to remove the offense from the gospel! We don’t need to occupy political spaces in order to reach the politicians nor to be rich in order to reach the rich, or be wise in order to reach the wise. This is what the way of incarnation teaches. Today we seem to have acquired all the above – the political power, financial backing, wisdom of the world and in some cases even military power but we seem to have lost the presence of God. Alas, this kind of mind set among us betrays how far removed we are from the ways of the God of the Bible and how little we know him. Unless we are willing to say as Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you”, I do not think we can challenge the power structures of the world. The mind-set that brought us salvation is the only mind-set that can bring salvation to others even today! Any other way is a short-cut introduced by the devil to subvert the gospel. I wonder if many of us in the fore front of evangelism and church planting have been complicit, if unwittingly, in this act of subversion! I shudder to think what the Lord would say to us at the final judgment!

One area where we have moved away from the incarnational model and the way of the kingdom of God is in the area of missions and evangelism. The trend to start national and international organisations for missions and evangelism began with what is generally known as the Missionary movement in the history of the church. The movement began in the 18th Century and became a global phenomenon in the 20th. The desire to preach the gospel and to reach more people for Christ is a valid and a laudable one and cannot be faulted. But the commission to take the gospel to the whole world is just that. It is about taking the gospel not our organisations or structures. We cannot make organisations on the lines of the corporate (commercial) world and take them global much like the multi-national companies of the globalisation era. The great commission is about taking the message of the gospel global and not our organisations. I guess in this the leaders in the forefront of worldwide evangelism have missed the way the Kingdom of God works. 

We have actually gone the way of the world by forming global or international organisations for evangelism and missions. As the second millennium came to a close, the motivation for missions began to be the year 2000, rather than our worship of the Lord. A strange and uncalled for haste crept into our global missions. Our focus shifted from knowing God and worshipping him to ministry and mission as urgent and therefore primary. In fact worship must lead to missions. But since we allowed our clocks and calendars to determine our missions, we began to go the way of the world – of international ministries, busy schedules, busy calendars, and busy lifestyles. We began to think that the busier we are, the bigger we are considered, much like the politicians of the world! None of the Apostles in the New Testament formed such structures with national, regional or global administrative and financial powers. What authority they wielded, it was moral and spiritual and not administrative. They did not form monolithic, autocratic or hegemonic structures. We shall see below how worship of the triune God pre-empts such tendencies.

The vision of the kingdom of God is global. But the way of the kingdom of God is local. The penchant even among Christians to start big organisations, big structures is not of the Lord but is of the world. I believe there are two main reasons why we all fall into the trap of bigness, and wider influence. One is our inherent insecurity and identity crisis as a result of the fall which constantly snaps at our heels to seek these in the work we do or in the structures we build. The itch for greatness or the desire to go higher and higher is too strong to resist for almost all of us. We must remember that the ones who make history never know that they are making one. But the ones who want to make history often end up on the side lines of God’s story!

The second reason why we fall into this trap of greatness is because of world’s influence over us. The world defines success in measurements of numbers, size, budgets, and popularity. And we have borrowed it from the world. Then the ‘great commission’ to go into all the world came in handy to justify and spiritualise our pursuit for greatness. Isn’t the world right there before us to be harvested for the Lord? The modern world has given us, as Os Guinness reminds us, the equivalent of the ancient Roman roads and the Greek language to make it easier to reach the world. It has made travelling across the globe easier and faster. The telecommunication revolution and financial contributions from Christians who have done so well in pursuing the world, make it so much easier to reach the world for Christ!

Listen to Eugene Peterson’s lament in his book The Jesus Way, “More often than not I find my Christian brothers and sisters uncritically embracing the ways and means practised by the high-profile men and women who lead large corporations, congregations, nations and causes, people who show us how to make money, win wars, manage people, sell products, manipulate emotions, and who then write books or give lectures telling us how we can do what they are doing. But these ways and means more often than not violate the ways of Jesus. Christians today are conspicuous for going along with whatever the culture decides as charismatic, successful, influential…hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow. Doesn’t anybody notice that the ways and means taken up, often enthusiastically, are blasphemously at odds with the way Jesus leads his followers? Why doesn’t anyone notice?”

When we begin to think according to the ways of the Kingdom of God, knowledge garnered form the world will be employed in a manner commensurate with the ways of the Kingdom of God. Science, technology, management and organisational systems and methods, research in the fields of human psychology, sociology and other fields of human knowledge and endeavour can certainly be learnt, understood and employed in the cause of the Kingdom of God. As Os Guinness writes, “Origen, in the third century A.D. taught that Christians are free to “plunder the Egyptians” but forbidden to “set up a golden calf” from the spoils.” Thus suggesting that we may use the wisdom from all these fields of knowledge in the service of the Kingdom of God but not to make idols of them. But we must also remember that while God may have told Israelites to plunder the Egyptians, he expressly forbade them from touching anything that belonged to Jericho. It therefore requires a lot of wisdom that comes from knowing God to discern what is acceptable and what is not and where to draw the line of difference. Keeping distance and detachment from the world and nearness to God by a constant soaking in his Word, is the key to discernment.

The one who learns and strives to walk in the ways of the Kingdom of God will of necessity keep everything small and simple. When we think about the church as local, the structures and organising will be local, small and simple. Since it is the message of the gospel which is global and not our names or influence we would be careful not to form global, monolithic, impersonal and mega corporations to spread the gospel. Since our economies are Trinitarian, they would be small and simple as well to meet needs of those around us. Thus even the technologies we employ would be simple. The people of the Kingdom of God do not establish or promote any enslaving systems or structures. They are discerning about the use of technology. They shun any technique or technology which enslaves or undermines the human and is detrimental to human health and nature.

Babel Syndrome

But unfortunately we do not seem to learn the ways of the Kingdom of God. We go back again and again to the ways of Babel. The Babel syndrome dogs the path of man through history. And I guess even the people of the Bible never learnt their lesson. Both the man in the world and the man who claims to follow Christ goes the way of Babelites. We want everything big. We want to make a name for ourselves. We like to find comfort in numbers. So we go big – big projects, big budgets, big industries, big dams, big aeroplanes, big cars, big computers, bigger televisions, bigger churches – everything has got to be big in order to mollify our big egos. Our insecurity and identity crisis as a result of the fall cannot have anything less, even among those who claim to be redeemed and healed! Who wants to remain small, unknown, unsung, unheralded! I guess only prophets like John the Baptiser do not mind being small. “He must increase and I must decrease” He says. I guess it takes a big mind to make things big but it takes a big heart to remain small!

I have said in my earlier book, ‘How Then Should We Live[1], “The only structure that Paul taught for the churches to have was the simplest – of elders and deacons with oversight confined to the immediately local and not regional, national or global. The church government was to remain essentially and functionally local and personal. I believe, wherever and whenever the structure exceeds the local, it lapses into an enslaving system of idolatry. And wherever and whenever they lapse into idolatry, the Holy Spirit of God withdraws and their effectiveness for God is lost. The history of the Church is littered with such structures. But sadly, we do neither see nor learn from history and so even the best among us continue to trip and fall into the same lure of bigness, greatness and power offered by the evil one in the name of larger influence and greater effectiveness. And lose all influence and effectiveness in the bargain! I believe this is true with so many great and godly men and women in history. Those who began so well, both in the ministry, the business and governments of the world, men and women who were simple and modest in their beginnings but as they grew they fell into the same lure of getting bigger for the sake of greater effectiveness, influence or power. This is the ‘Babel syndrome’, to make a name and reach the skies. Quite often as Paul writes, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”(Phil 2: 21)

The one who spends too much time with men lives by comparing himself with other men. Such men cannot but try to be big and build big. The one who spends time with God and in pursuing him cannot but be small. Not even medium sized! He knows that he is, but of yesterday and that he is of dust, only a creature and cannot be the Creator. Ever! Not even a demi-god! Neither the devil nor the world can ever delude him to believe otherwise. Unfortunately we have many demi-gods even among Christians! The ancient temptation ‘you shall be like gods’ is as modern as today! Never ancient!

Eugene Peterson writes, “The ways employed in much of the Western culture are conspicuously impersonal: programs, organisations, techniques, general guidelines, information detached from place. In matters of ways and means, the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names, ideologies, crowd our ideas, the gray fog of abstraction absorbs the sharp particularities of recognisable face and the familiar street.

My concern is provoked by the observation that so many who understand themselves to be followers of Jesus, without hesitation and apparently without thinking, embrace the ways and means of the cultures as they go about their living “in Jesus name.” But the ways that dominate our culture have been developed either in ignorance or in defiance of the ways that Jesus uses to lead us as we walk the streets and alleys, hike the trails, and drive the roads in this God-created, and God-saved, God-blessed, God-ruled world in which we find ourselves. They seem to suppose that “getting on in the world” means getting on in the world on the world’s terms, and that the ways of Jesus are useful only in a compartmentalised area of life labelled “religious.”

This is wrong thinking, and wrong living. Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them. We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing – and the gospel is personal or it is nothing.”

Disjointed or dynamic!

The church in the New Testament mostly gathered in homes. This not only made them accessible to the neighbourhood but also vulnerable. When you throw open your homes for other believers to come and fellowship together, you become vulnerable. Incarnation of Christ teaches us that vulnerability is at the heart of service, sacrifice and bringing salvation to others. When the church as a worshipping community meets in homes, they bring the presence of God into the neighbourhood. By building separate structures and going there to ‘worship’ we move God and his presence away from the community. We have thus adopted practises alien to the teaching of the New Testament and to the model given to us in the incarnation. This is true especially in urban societies today. Eastern cultures have the practise of having a separate room for gods in their homes and a temple outside the home for the community.

As mentioned earlier, human nature would rather have God outside safely ensconced in a show-case or a sanctuary. Let God be God, far away and above. Not near and immediate. Not as a man, a servant and vulnerable to the point of dying for man. This was Peter’s objection to Christ. How can the Son of God, the Messiah become a servant and wash man’s feet?  How can the Son of God, die? He said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” And he would see to it that he will not die! And he did try to object to his arrest. Jesus’ answer was, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Or, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” By removing our gathering and worship into structures outside and far from our homes we have removed worship from our lifestyles. Thus losing our role as salt and light to our neighbourhoods. I wonder if we have thus lost our part with the Lord as well!

While many Christians do understand that ‘church’ does not mean a building and that it is the people of God who are constituted to be the body of Christ. Yet every Sunday morning practically all Christians, everywhere talk about going to church or attending church. Clearly such language betrays the fact that we have reduced the church to a physical edifice and to a service or a programme. Church as a place or a meeting is alien to the New Testament both in language and concept. It is completely odious to the teaching of the apostles. Such an idea of church as a place or a meeting, dislocates the people of God from the contexts of their living. It divests them of their responsibility from living the life of Christ as his body. Besides going to a place and attending a service gives us a false sense of satisfaction that we have done our duty. And that we are now free to live our lives according to the agenda set by the world, of course as good ‘Christians’. Moreover these physical structures and the patterns of worship and ministry invariably enslave us over time. Since we associate them with God and his worship we begin to seek security and identity in them and not in the God we worship. A church that is removed from the neighbourhoods where God’s people live and takes them to gather and worship away from their contexts of living is a dislocated and disjointed church! Today almost everywhere we see only such churches – disjointed and dislocated and no one seems to even notice it!

Jesus very clearly said to the Samaritan woman at the well that worship is not related to a place. We do not find worship being reduced to a service in the New Testament. Jesus taught that worship was a matter of truth and spirit. Worship is a lifestyle. It happens when those living in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit live lives of faith and obedience unto him. Such people gather together giving expression to the body of Christ in the context of a neighbourhood or a community. These are the people of God called out of the world to belong to God and constitute the church, the body of Christ. They adopt lifestyles of worship, totally different from the rest of the world. Lifestyles of ‘Trinitarian economics’ of sharing, serving and sacrificing for the welfare of others. Could this be the reason why the genius of Jesus and his apostles did not teach nor try to program or budget such a dynamic nor endeavour to confine it to buildings? Could this be the reason why we do not read about such structures in the New Testament? Nor do we read in history about any such structures surviving from New Testament times? While we do read about the Church, the body of Christ surviving and spreading until this day! This does not mean that we cannot have a functional place to gather but we certainly cannot build edifices and call them as churches. But history reveals that the only thing that is perpetual in time is the Church. Scripture teaches us that the only one eternal is the Lord and His kingdom and those who do his will. Everyone else and everything else is only short lived.

For such dynamic local churches to exist, living and reaching out to the community around them, I believe they do not need large structures – whether physical or administrative. They must of necessity, remain small. The dynamic of small groups is that their focus remains personal, immediate and spontaneous. Eugene Peterson writes, “The local congregation is the primary place for dealing with particulars and people we live with. As created and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it is insistently local and personal.” In such groups being transparent and accountable would be easier and simpler. Any scope for hypocrisy, duplicity and compromise would be reduced and could be easily detected. And since they do not have large power structures – whether administrative or financial, there is hardly any room for autocracy or bossing over. Since the emphasis is on their identity as God’s people and their security is in him – they no more seek these in anything or anyone other than their Lord. Their worship of him prevents them from seeking these even in their possessions, in fact they do not even claim anything as their own – ‘…no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own’ (Acts 4:32). This is the ideal and we are expected to move towards this ideal.

On the other hand, cathedrals, church building, prayer houses, chapels and even organisations made in order to serve God invariably become sources of security and identity over time. This is true practically in every case in history. In the beginning they all seem to be so useful and functional but later in almost all cases these replace God and become the focus of our devotion. We fight to preserve them. We go to courts over them. We treat them as sacred to the point of venerating them as divine. Why, we still make such structures when in the first place we do not even need them in order to worship God? Second, when we know that these invariably lead people away from God rather than bring them near to him, why we still do it? Is it our vanity? Is it for our identity? Whose name we want perpetuated, ours or God’s? What is our motive? And after knowing both scripture and history, if our leaders insist on doing it, what can we say about them? And worse still, are they not inadvertently leading people away from the Lord?! And what can we say about the people who contribute for such purposes? Sometimes you wonder if the leaders are really blind or something else!

At this point, I must record my dissent to what Eugene Peterson says in his book The Jesus Way. His point about the need for institutional structures as support for conserving spirituality is a dark spot on an otherwise excellent work on the way of Jesus for life and work. He writes, “We sometimes say, thoughtlessly I think, that the church is not a building. It’s people. I’m not so sure. Synagogues and temples, cathedrals, chapels, and meeting halls provide continuity in place and community for Jesus to work his will among his people. A place, a building, collects stories and develops associations that give local depth and breadth and continuity to our experience of following Jesus. We must not try to more spiritual than Jesus in this business. Following Jesus means following him into sacred buildings that have a lot of sinners in them, some of them very conspicuous sinners. Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. A spirituality that has no institutional structure or support very soon becomes self-indulgent and subjective and one-generational.”  Well, I am not so sure! Does institutional structure and support mean large monolithic and hierarchical structures? Or is it the local structure of elders and deacons as allowed by Apostle Paul?  And any structures we make to provide the support any local congregation needs, I believe of necessity must be one-generational and not perpetual. For whether we like it or not all man-made systems and structures have real effectiveness for only a single generation! Anything longer generally degenerates into an idol. History bears out on this. It would be wrong to think that following Jesus means to follow him into synagogues and sacred buildings. Jesus met people in these places because people generally congregated in those places not because he led them there. In fact he led them to sea-shores, to river banks, to hillsides, into homes and not into synagogues.  And we would be causing great damage to the idea of ‘church’ if we used the word to refer to buildings and not to the people of God.

Both for its life and mission a local church must remain local. This is how it remains incarnational. It can give true expression to the body of Christ within the context of a neighbourhood community. It cannot be regional or national. And I believe this is the reason why we do not read about regional or national churches in the New Testament.

Biblical Theocracy

It must be pointed here that practically all man-made structures, systems and institutions, whether Christian or otherwise eventually end up being oppressive and enslaving. They tend to be of service only for a short period of time. We shall presently, examine why this is so. The genius of the Bible is that it does not offer any such institutions except those given by God – namely the institution of the family and the Church with Christ as their Head. I think this is the reason why the genius of Jesus and the Apostles did not talk about any human structures in order to take the gospel to the whole world, except in obedience to and under the Lordship of Christ.

Certainly for any form of activity we need some form of organising and structuring. I am not in the least arguing against such organising. But any organisation we create in order to conduct our worship or missions, of necessity, must be tentative, temporary, local and immediate. We cannot create structures which become monuments of human ingenuity, achievement and glory like the Babelites. Because any structures we create not only, do they not last long and become oppressive and enslaving but tend to displace God from our lives by becoming false sources of security and identity. And invariably they tend to become monopolistic and totalitarian.

One of the major dilemmas of human existence is the dilemma of control, dominance and monopoly. Because of our inherent insecurity we are suspicious and untrusting of others. We exhibit it in trying to be control freaks and authoritarian. The most extreme among us tend to be dictatorial and megalomaniac. But short of being dictatorial we display our insecurity in many forms of control. Often control is also exhibited to check dissent and disunity. Basically it is the problem of knowing how to handle diversity in order to bring in unity. We tend to swing between being autocratic or anarchic.

What is it that binds us as one and yet gives us the freedom to be distinct as individuals? How to maintain unity while allowing variety or diversity?[2]

Colin Gunton writes in The One The Three and The Many that basically there have been two major views about reality which come to us from pre-Socratic times. The view that everything is one or a unity or that the one pre-exists the many and ultimately all collapse into one, comes from Parmenides (born c. 515 BCE). Such a view is generally known as monistic. Much of western thinking including Christian, has been Parmenidean. This view gives rise to totalitarian, autocratic, monarchic, imperialistic, hierarchical and monopolistic forms. These forms tend to be intolerant, distant, highly structured and impersonal in their ways of working. This explains why to a large extent the western societies have been totalitarian, imperialistic and hegemonic.

The view that everything is many or a plurality or that the many are prior to the one, and that they can never be reconciled or united, comes from Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE). The view that everything is many that there are only particulars and that they can never be united or reconciled leads to absolute tolerance[3], lack of coherence, and tentativeness. Such thinking leads to ambiguity, instability, chaos, flux and anarchy. Colin Gunton writes that democracy is Heraclitean and was a result of the rebellion against the western totalitarian forms. While eastern societies have been monistic in their beliefs yet Heraclitean thinking prevailed in practise.

But the basic human insecurity resulting from the fall leads us to be control freaks and so we never allow the many their due expression. Lacking in coherence and feeding upon the inherent insecurity those who propound plurality of choice and living, end up being control freaks, regimenting life and behaviour, hegemonic, autocratic, dictatorial and monopolistic. Heraclites is often swallowed up by Parmenides.  The many are absorbed into one. Thus homogenising and regimenting lifestyles and cultures.

The reason I bring this up is, the church which should have brought the needed healing into these areas of organising and governance has generally succumbed to the Parmenidean thinking. As I mentioned in my previous article, while we talked about a Trinitarian Deity, yet in practice we have been monistic. Hence, even the organisations and structures we created to do our worship and mission have tended to be of one-man leadership, totalitarian, autocratic and hierarchical.

If our worship had been truly focused on the Trinity, the God who is One yet Three, we would have saved ourselves and the world the confusion, the hatred, and the bloodshed of the last two thousand years. Therefore my plea to the people of God is to restore a right understanding of the God whom we call our heavenly Father, His Son our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed Holy Spirit co-existing in eternal communion. Only he gives us the needed understanding of knowing that we are distinct yet relational beings. Our individuality and our relationality flow from the fact that we are made in His image. Therefore our diversity and unity comes not only from our understanding but also from our worship and relationship with Him. In the context of the local church, each individual has the room and place to express his or her gifts in serving others. Yet we acknowledge our unity because of the communion – the life we share in Christ. It is only then we bring the one and the many together. The universal and the particulars, the general and the specific have their room and are held in tension. There is no enforced regimentation or homogenisation here. Any unity and communion that is expressed comes through voluntary submission to one another in Christ. We have already seen how this works in my previous article on Trinitarian economy. Unity through voluntary submission and sharing. Diversity through allowing room, space to each to be and to become.

This is the reason why I say that the Hebrew monarchy was not Trinitarian theocracy. It was only a concession made for the time. The original plan for the people of Israel as we read in the book of Judges, was to live with God as their King. His kingship mediated through His law. There was no enslavement of any kind. There were no taxes to pay except the offerings they brought to the temple. There was no human ruler to control or subjugate them. The role of the judges was not pan-national but localised and primarily a dual role – of providing the people security from external aggression and they were to adjudicate over any matters of dispute regarding the law. They were one people and one nation under God, yet they enjoyed true freedom from any man-made structures and controls. This is true theocracy.  Even the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan was cared for by the law of the Lord. The foreigner was not forced into accepting the Hebrew God and if he chose to become a part of Israel he could after being circumcised.

This is the type of government the people of the Kingdom of God are supposed to demonstrate to the world. Any institutions we form must represent this form of government, where people live in true freedom to be and to become yet living in voluntary submission and communion.

To the fallen and finite man this might sound utopian. But for the redeemed people of God who have found healing in Christ and have tasted the Infinite, it is in the realm of the practical through the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit of God. At least they must work towards it. The point is we do not see this happening instead we seem to be comfortable with the ways and means of the world. Hence my charge that we have been cohabiting with the world. This is the reason why we cannot experience the power and the presence of God as we should. I guess we are like the Laodicean church, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

Listen to the wise words of Peterson again, “Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is King. If Christ is King, everything, quite literally everything and every one has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus. This is not easy. It is not accomplished by participating in a prayer meeting or two, or signing up for a course in discipleship at school or church, or attending annual prayer breakfast. A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things – what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, “Repent” – is required.”

Otherwise the words of our Lord would come true, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

The Lord said to the church at Laodicea, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent…The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Amen.

[1] This is available on my blog as well: https://rupanthar.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/how-then-should-we-live-part-1/

[2] For more on this read Colin Gunton’s The One, The Three And The Many – God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity

[3] Read my article on the ‘The Myth Absolute Tolerance’ at my blog: https://rupanthar.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/the-myth-of-absolute-tolerance/