Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Relationship Restoration Project – In the Beginning…

When sitting in a conservative Evangelical church, sometime the messages preached can be quite confusing. It sometimes goes like these: “God’s love is unconditional, EXCEPT when ________,” “The Church is the hand and feet of Christ, BUT we want nothing to do with ________,” “Christians are called to love, UNLESS if you are a ________.” I found these self-contradictive messages unsatisfying. They made God seem rather unreliable, as if He is sometimes loving and sometimes not. But God never changes, nor does He lie. If our understanding of the Bible leads us to a flakey God, rather than explain it away, we must reexamine our theology. Through this reexamination, I would like to point out the key element that has been overlooked by the modern Evangelical church, and demonstrate the difference the restoration of this key element could make.

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As I began to attend the American church in my home country, I learned the big Evangelical word, community, which is proven to be a magical word even in the Evangelical churches on American soil. If you are a Christian, you must participate in the community, that is, the universal Church of Christ through the local church you attend. There is no doubt about it that Christians belong in fellowship with God and with each other. However, what binds Christians together is not the magical word itself. A genuine Christian community would not exist without proper relations and relationships. To be more specific, the relations that are necessary to the Christian community are that between God and His people, that among His people, and that between His people and their neighbors.

Before we became Christians, we are bound by morality, but now that we are children of God, we are no longer under the law. We are now bound by these relations and relationships. This is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions – Christianity is not about do good and be good, but about having proper relationships with the Maker of the universe, with the universe He created, and with all who share the same relationship with the Maker. It is therefore of first importance that we know who the Maker is.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” -  Gen. 1:1-3, NASB

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” - Genesis 1:26-27

In Genesis 1, right from the very first 3 verses of Scripture, we see the three Persons of the triune God at work. God the Father speaks, the Word of God creates, and the Spirit of God proceeds. Further, in Genesis 1:26-27, the Us and the Our once again put the triune nature of God on display. Trinity is of utmost importance to the Christian community, because it is the foundation of any relation and relationship. The triune Godhead – the three Persons in one – is a community bound by a loving relationship.

Observing the incarnation of God the Son we learn that, as the Son was sent into the world, the Father trusted the Son fully. The Father never wondered if the Son was going to change His mind, and fail His mission. The Son also trusted the Father fully. The Son never doubted if the Father’s providence was going to come through. In the same way, the Spirit trusted the Father and the Son fully. The Spirit was never worried over if the Father and the Son were going to divorce from each other.

This sense of trust and security come from the relationship between the three Persons of the Godhead. In their loving relationship, they know each other fully well and intimately, they love each other, and they are for each other. The kind of relationship the triune God has is what married couples crave for, sports teams hunger for, and corporates die for. The creation of the heavens and the earth is, then, God’s invitation for the creatures to partake in the triune community. That is why relations and relationships are so important to God – because God is relational. And that is also why children of God must participate in His community.

Further, in the very beginning of the Bible, God’s relationship with mankind is plainly explained. The book of Genesis was written by Moses in a time when the Hebrews had just gone out from Egypt, a nation which is big on worshipping their Pharaohs as gods. At the same time, most of ancient Israel’s enemies and neighbors worshipped Mother Nature, namely, the rivers, the mountains, the animals and fertility. Therefore, it was of crucial importance that God, through Moses, should make Himself known.

What are mankind and Mother Nature? Are they not creatures of God? How humbling it is to know that we would not have existence if God had not created mankind. And what a great love and extensive care it is that God created for us an ecosystem which sustains us ALL – our God is one who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Some people like to term this theologically as “common grace.” But from an aerial perspective, it really is the manifestation of God’s relationship with mankind. In addition, we must pay the nature world its due respect, because “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1, NIV). The great nature is God’s handicraft, which "God saw that it was good." It would not be displaying the glory of God without its created/Creator relation with God.

Certainly, there is a difference between God’s relationships with mankind in general and those who belong to Him. What marks this difference is not ethnicity or culture, but faith. However, that is a discussion I will leave for later. I understand that by now, many questions may have been stirred up, but please bear with me as we go through this extensive reexamination process.

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