Sunday Message for 8 May 2022: “You & Me & the Trinity”
Posted On May 4, 2022
John 10:22-30 feeds controversy about Jesus’ relationship to God. The setting was the Jerusalem Temple, where Jesus was walking until confronted by critics, who wanted him to plainly state his credentials. Jesus affirmed that he was the messiah and that his miracles supported this assertion. 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 Bible suggests that Jesus enraged people by claiming oneness with God the Father. The scholars, aristocrats, scribes, and other Jews thought Jesus guilty of blasphemy, the worst imaginable sin, which was 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 orthodox belief that it can overshadow Jesus’ marvelous love.
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 the dark side by choosing roles as theological mercenaries. Their dirty work is prosecuted by ideologues claiming they have a mandate to police peoples’ personal faith.
Christianity isn’t alone with its infighting. Atrocities continue to be committed by zealots in various religions who coerce humanity to conform to a peculiar agenda. Islam is divided between Shiites and Sunnis; Judaism between reformists and the ultra-orthodox Hasidim. Even Buddhism and Hinduism have progressive and fundamentalism strains. All of this suggests that weaponized religion is one of humanity’s plagues.
Despite all the conflict, 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,” which when examined closely were seldom all that good. People tend to idealize the past while overlooking the sins of previous generations.
As God’s fallible 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. All of this negativity undermines our primary task to draw people closer to God through our love for one another. People who are increasingly hostile to the church point to how self-described “Christians” always seem to be angry malcontents. Don’t let this happen to you!
Lest we digress let’s return to the Trinity and examine a clever analogy. One of the more suggestive ways to describe the Trinity involves comparing the three aspects of Deity–God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—to water. The idea is that there is one substance (H2O) that takes three different forms (i.e., liquid, ice, and steam relate to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). By comparing states of H2( with God, the hope is that people will believe 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).
On the other side of things, Trinity opponents cite the same Bible for their arguments, suggesting that true monotheism as in the Jewish Old Testament must categorically reject all three-in-one trinitarian models. Unitarians therefore argue that Jesus couldn’t be God because God is not divided and cannot be even partly defined or confused with lesser beings. In such a view, God is One and there can’t be a nuanced version of the Almighty no matter how cute or clever.
There are many choices about how to view Jesus, God, and their relationship. People of faith can either continue warring against their theological opponents or they can channel their energies more constructively, as in focusing on their day-to-day lives (which is each person’s primary, all-consuming task). Sadly, some people would rather argue than spend the same energy on their life management.
Self-absorption with religious doctrines suggests an easy out for folks whose argumentative spirit compels them to find fault, often by blaming and scapegoating their adversaries. But there’s another way. All of God’s children can chose to fulfill what God most wants, which is to receive and share love, the very essence and substance of the Almighty.