Message for Sunday 12 May 2019: “You and Me and the Trinity”
Posted On April 25, 2019
Today’s topic from John’s gospel (10:22-30) illustrates how Jesus ignited controversy. To begin, Jesus was walking in the Jerusalem Temple amid critics who wanted him to plainly state his credentials. Then as now, there’s unceasing debate about Jesus. Jesus affirmed that he was the messiah and that his miracles supported his claim. But Jesus went much further: “I am God!” is what Jesus’ critics heard him declare. We can hedge things a bit because Jesus actually said “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
The biblical text suggests that Jesus enraged the listeners by claiming oneness with God the Father. The scholars, aristocrats, scribes, and other Jews thought Jesus guilty of blasphemy, the worst imaginable sin and also punishable by death. The problem about Jesus’ nature persists, with toxic debate between what people say about the human Jesus of history versus the divine Jesus of faith. So much effort has been spent by partisans defending supposedly correct belief that often the magnificent principles and love Jesus taught remain neglected.
A horrendous problem within Christianity is how believers on various sides of issues condemn one another. Such a case involves trying to precisely define who Jesus was, who he is, and more specifically the problem with the Trinity (i.e., God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). One aspect missed in the bitter crossfire is that God’s desire is for people to demonstrate compassion and receive redemption. Instead, many combatants in the Jesus debate take a darker path by choosing roles as theological mercenaries. This dirty work is often carried out by rigid ideologues who claim that they have a mandate from God to police peoples’ faith.
Christianity isn’t alone with its infighting. Atrocities continue to be committed by zealots in various religions who are also intent on coercing humanity to conform to a peculiar agenda. Extreme caution is warranted when dealing with weaponized religion and yet we can be thankful that God’s light illuminates the truth within us. God infuses followers with the love that connects you and me with the Almighty. Our ancestors died for religious liberty and yet some want to take that away and return to the much overrated “good ‘ole days.” As God’s representatives, we have much work to get our spiritual house in order. Destroying our Christian witness with infighting, by pointless arguments and distractions—this causes a cancer weakening the body of the church and undermines our primary task to draw people closer to God.
What about that controversial belief in the Trinity view of God? Whatever you believe, it never hurts to appreciate a suggestive illustration. One clever way to understand the Trinity involves comparing the three aspects of our Deity–God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—to water, such that there is one substance (H2O) that takes three different forms (i.e., liquid, ice, and steam). By applying this metaphor, the claim is that Jesus is one with the Father in the same way that liquid water is one with ice and steam (hence “oneness” in substance if not in form). Trinity opponents cite the same Bible for their arguments, suggesting that true monotheism must categorically reject the three-in-one trinitarian construct. They argue that Jesus couldn’t be God because God is not divided and, in any case, God is One and there can’t be a compromised version despite clever analogies with water.
There are many choices about how to view Jesus, God, and their relationship within widely varying interpretations. In any case, people of faith can either continue warring against their theological opponents or they can channel their energies more constructively, such as managing their day-to-day lives (which is each person’s primary, all-consuming task). Self-absorption with religious doctrines suggests that many people don’t focus on their personal spiritual issues and instead find fault with others by blaming and scapegoating their adversaries. If we’re all doing our part to receive and share love than other matters will not usurp what God most wants from us. Let us therefore continue to derive joy from the God who is love and the love of God we share with one another.