A Fellowship Of Differents
The Trinity is a fellowship of differents, and so should our small groups be.
Everything about our Christian life and morality should reflect something about the character of God. For instance, we believe that murder is wrong. We believe this because the Bible forbids it. But the Bible doesn’t forbid murder arbitrarily, or based on some circular logic like “everything’s ok as long as you don’t hurt other people.” The Bible condemns murder because murder is inconsistent with the character of the God of life. God is life. He is the source of all life. In him there is no death. Therefore life is better than death. Therefore Christians value life.
Let’s do another one: adultery. The Bible forbids it, but not out of a desire for prudish moral strictures. The Bible condemns infidelity because it’s inconsistent with the character of God who is always faithful. God keeps his promises. Over and over, God has promised his people, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And for thousands of years he has kept his promise. God is faithful. Therefore, fidelity is better than infidelity. Therefore Christians value fidelity.
We can do that exercise with almost any piece of Christian morality and practice.
So if we reflect the nature of God in our Christian living, what should be the moral code that reflects the Trinity? How does our belief in a Triune God impact our life? I think it offers at least two truths.
1. The Triune God cannot be properly worshipped in isolation.
God exists in eternal, perfect relationship. He has never existed apart from relationship. And neither should his followers. We serve a relational God and therefore we are called to be relational icons of his character. We carry forth the image of God when we exist in peaceful, God-honoring community.
I don’t mean to say that Christians can never be alone. That’s not healthy either. But solitude is not the same as isolation.
That’s the "why” behind my church's emphasis on “connecting in community.” Every Sunday, we talk about Growing In Christ, Connecting In Community, and Joining the Mission. Your church probably uses similar language. We aren’t just saying those things to fill programs or jump through religious hoops. We are explicating the nature of God. We are saying that our worship of God must be deep, relational and missional because our God is deep, relational and missional.
2. The Triune God is honored by reconciling community.
The persons of the Godhead are not three Fathers who “get each other.” They are not three Sons from the same neighborhood. They are different. That God exists in eternal relationship tells us something. That he exists in a relationship of differents tells us even more.
Ephesians 2:15 says that Jesus’ purpose was to create in himself one new humanity — to bring together races, classes and worldviews that had been at odds and set them at table together around his broken body.
When we love our brothers and sisters Christ, we honor God, no matter who they are. But when we love our brothers and sisters who are different than us — who look, act, live, think, and vote differently than us — we herald a new kind of humanity. We announce that the kingdom of God has come near. We image-forth the God of shalom. Perhaps Scot McKnight says it most succinctly in his new book A Fellowship Of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design For Life Together: "The church God wants is one brimming with difference."
Let me make this practical: as a way to serve parishioners and meet them where they our, the small groups ministry I oversee seeks to facilitate groups that meet in convenient times and locations. As best we can, we also honor requests based on age and stage of life. If you want to be in a homogeneous group, you can be. But we do that as a concession. My vision for community at my church — and Paul’s vision for community when he wrote to the church in Ephesus — is to align the members of the Body beneath something more holy than affinity — the sacred Head, wounded to bring us unity, not uniformity.